DAR ES SALAAM, TANZANIA - A former prime minister will open his campaign for the ruling party's presidential nomination this weekend, an aide said Wednesday, beginning the race to be next leader of Tanzania.
The Chama Cha Mapinduzi party has ruled the East African nation since independence in 1961, and the fractious opposition is not expected to challenge its position in a parliamentary and presidential vote October 25.
Whoever wins the nomination is all but assured of taking office after President Jakaya Kikwete, who stands down this year after serving the maximum two terms.
Former Tanzanian Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who has described some officials in Kikwete's government as "lethargic," is the first big hitter to announce his campaign.
"Lowassa will officially inaugurate his presidential bid on Saturday," Aboubakar Liongo, Lowassa's spokesman, told Reuters, adding he would outline his priorities and presidential manifesto in the northern Tanzanian city of Arusha.
Some rivals have said they will run, but have yet to announce an official launch date or are seen as outsiders in a race to be decided by party members, probably on July 12.
Tanzania has been seen as a oasis of political stability in Africa. While ruled by a single party for more than half a century, Tanzania has seen peaceful transitions to different presidents since multiparty politics returned in 1995.
Lowassa, 61, who backed Kikwete in 2005, is seen as a divisive figure in the ruling party after resigning in 2008 over corruption allegations in the energy sector, charges he denied. But he is widely seen as a strong contender.
"Lowassa retains a strong support base within the party and has raised a substantial amount of money in preparation for his campaign," wrote Ahmed Salim of consultancy Teneo Intelligence.
Political analyst Benson Bana said the opposition would struggle to mount a credible challenge.
"Opposition parties in Tanzania are undermined by internal divisions," he said.