On Sunday Tanzanians go to vote in what many observers have termed the nation’s most competitive elections in the country’s history.  

Tanzanians at election rally

It will be recalled that former Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan was invited to aid in overseeing the Tanzanian election.

The two frontrunners are John Magufuli representing the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) and Edward Lowassa representing the Chadema party which is an alliance of opposition parties.

Mr. Magufuli was elected as the CCM candidate in July and served in former President Jakaya Kikwete’s cabinet. The CCM was created in 1977 by Julius Nyerere and other Tanzanian independence leaders, and has been the ruling party since then.  

From 1977-1992 it was the only party legally allowed to exist within the country.  Following the introduction of multiparty democracy to Tanzania, the CCM won every general election in the country.

However, in the past two election cycles opposition parties have made gains in the Parliament.  In October Chadema joined with several other parties to form a unified opposition against CCM.

In August this alliance selected Mr. Lowassa as their presidential candidate.  Mr. Lowassa was formerly a member of CCM, but left after he failed to secure the party’s presidential nomination.  

Some have questioned if Mr. Lowassa offers a real break from CCM given the fact that he only recently defected from the party.  Emmanuel Tayari, writing for the blog AfricanArguments, wrote that Mr. Lowassa’s long history within the CCM could mean he would simply be more of the same.  Mr. Tayari also questioned Mr. Lowassa’s commitment to anti-corruption, given the fact that he has been charged for corruption himself.

The election is expected to be the closest in Tanzania’s history.  In an Op-Ed former Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie Carson wrote that “it is too soon to say who will win the October elections, but CCM has lost seats to the opposition in each of the last two national elections and it will probably lose more parliamentary seats this time around.”

According to Mr. Carson, the competitive nature of the elections could lead to post election violence as each of the major parties has a small militia, which could be mobilized should the election results be viewed as fraudulent.

Most observers expect that the CCM will maintain the Presidency but that opposition parties will win more seats in Parliament.

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