Despite Opposition Unity, Tanzania’s CCM Likely to Keep Grip on Power

Despite Opposition Unity, Tanzania’s CCM Likely to Keep Grip on Power
Tanzania's public works minister John Pombe Magufuli speaks at an internal party poll to decide the ruling party's presidential candidate, Dodoma, Tanzania, July 11, 2015 (AP photo by Khalfan Said).

With President Jakaya Kikwete due to step down next month after his constitutionally limited two terms, all eyes in Tanzania have been on the succession. For the past 18 months, two front-runners representing opposing factions within the ever-fractious ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi party, or CCM, have dominated headlines: former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and former Foreign Minister Bernard Membe.

But in a surprise in July, the CCM, which has ruled Tanzania since its independence in 1961, selected Minister of Public Works John Magufuli as its official presidential candidate. Lowassa, who had attracted the ire of CCM bigwigs for starting his campaign early and had raised concerns over his implication in a corruption scandal that led to his resignation as prime minister in 2008, was left off the final shortlist of candidates.

Stung by his exclusion, Lowassa, in another twist, quit the party and joined forces with Chadema, one of Tanzania’s four main opposition parties that had come together to run as a coalition in the Oct. 25th elections. Then, in early August, the opposition coalition rallied around its own surprise single presidential candidate: Lowassa. The shuffling has raised questions about the strength and state of the CCM and hopes for the opposition ahead of what looks to be a closely contested election.

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