Dar es Salaam. Registration of 2.5 million voters marks the end of jostling and elbowing for political dominance between the ruling party CCM and the opposition, led by the parties that formed a grand coalition popularly known as Ukawa in 2015.
In comparison to the previous elections, 2015 proved to be a two-horse race – that parties besides ruling CCM pitting against Ukawa were mere minions in the game. When the former president Jakaya Kikwete took over the mantle of leadership, he garnered 6.88 votes in 2005.
Although the overall difference in votes between what the CCM’s John Pombe Magufuli gathered in 2015 was higher than what the former president Jakaya Kikwete got in 2010 in his reclamation for the presidential seat for the second and final term, the 2015 General Elections took a different angle – it was predictable while 2015 was not. John Magufuli emerged the winner, finishing the journey he had started having not been grounded his roots in his own party.
The competition was stiff and wrought by the many incidences that had previously altered the political landscape in the country preceding the 2015 General Elections.
Among these incidences was crossing over of the two former prime ministers to the opposition from the ruling party. That had marked the end of the huge public rallies dubbed “Mafuriko” (translated as floods) that pulled together thousands of Tanzanians that marked the Magufuli’s and former CCM cadre-turned-opposition, Edward Lowassa, and the influential former prime minister who was supported by three other major parties besides Chadema. The parties included NCCR-Mageuzi, NLD and CUF, all under the auspices of the much-hyped Umoja wa Katiba ya Wananchi (Ukawa) coalition.
Lowassa, Membe showdown
Jostling for party nominations between the former minister for Foreign Affairs Bernard Membe and Edward Lowassa since CCM – and perhaps before – announced nominations, the two men featured prominently in the forthcoming elections as formidable contestants. The names of the two contestants were always in the mouths of CCM members and Lowassa was seen as the most likely candidate to clinch presidency having entrenched himself in the party and as one, having previously vied for the first time in 1995 and eventually having joined the Kikwete team ultimately enlarging his network among the party stalwarts all over the country.
Mr Lowassa and Mr Membe were among the six CCM party cadres who had earlier on been barred from undertaking any leadership business for 12 months having been confirmed to have engaged in early campaigns. Others included January Makamba, William Ngeleja, Stephen Wasira and Frederick Sumaye whose suspension ended slightly before the 2015 General Election. The six joined the race together with a record 36 others who took forms seeking nomination in the ruling party.
Mr Lowassa, not just because of his track records in 1995 and 2005 when he joined the Mr Kikwete’s team, but his followers showed that he was the outright winner and that he had slim chances of losing to the party nominees or even the opposition.
Popularity polls from different institutions placed him way ahead of other nominees including Mizengo Pinda, Membe, Magufuli, Mwandosya and Makamba in CCM.
Outside the ruling party were popular opposition leaders including Freeman Mbowe (Chadema), Willibrod Slaa (Chadema), Prof Ibrahim Lipumba (CUF) and Anna Mghwira (ACT-Wazalendo).
This was evident after the CCM’s Central Committee announced the names of the sextet to the CCM National Executive Council for voting. Even before formal announcement, there were lingering different opinions about Mr Lowassa’s nomination.
“Today, in our meeting, we did not receive all the names of the nominees, something that does not augur well for the party procedures,” National Executive Committee (NEC member Emmanuel Nchimbi told journalists immediately after the meeting of the committee in 2015.
“Only a few names were brought to us…But secondly, the constitution stipulates that the most popular names be given the preference but today’s meeting seems to have done the opposite,”
“Following these developments, the three of us, Sophia Simba, (Adam) Kimbisa and I, as NEC members, we are distancing ourselves from decisions made in the meeting and we don’t support them”
Things were not looking up even after five CCM cadres – Magufuli, Makamba, Membe, Asha-Rose Migiro and Amina Salum – were announced as contestants whose names were presented to the NEC for subsequent elections.
“CCM is our party,” said Dr Raphael Chegeni, a member of the NEC.
“We are faced with the reality of making difficult decisions,” he added.
Things hang in the balance and there seemed to be no reprieve for the situation at the beginning of the meeting. When the then national chairman, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, together with the other party kingpins entered the party’s White House building in Dodoma, there were people chanting songs to the effect that they had faith in the slashed name of Edward Lowassa.
He joined in the bravado but realised that there was something amiss.
“This has never before happened,” he said after the meeting had cooled off. Later, the meeting was adjourned followed a secret meeting later in the day. It is said that CCM cadres, including former presidents discussed the unfolding events and cooled off situation.
Dr Magufuli beat Migiro and Amina Salum after the NEC elections. He had jumped the first hurdle – but, in the meantime, the opposition parties were burning the midnight oil, seeking their presidential frontrunner and probably, edging out of Mr Lowassa in election preliminaries was a blessing in disguise for the opposition coalition.
“Regarding the previous General Election, we were very prepared,” said Tundu Lissu in an interview with one local television. “And part of preparations was seeking the help of professionals to advise us on how well to win the elections”
He further said that the experts were given three months to submit the reports. The corruption agenda ranked ninth and was thus not a pertinent issue in the lives of the electorate as compared to availability of water, health services and others.
“And we have screened each political personalities individually,” said Mr Lissu. “They advised us on possible combinations and Mr Lowassa was deemed fit to carry with him 18 percent of Tanzania’s votes,” said Mr Lissu. “If Lowassa moves with extra 18 percent of votes, we are sure to win the elections. Let’s woo him to our camp.”
Chadema welcomed Mr Lowassa and introduced him to the Ukawa rallies where they were seeking out for a single flag bearer.
Prof Lipumba and Dr Slaa stood a good chance after Dr Slaa of Chadema raked in 2.1 million votes in 2010.
Later on Ukawa settled for the name of Edward Lowassa as the presidential flag bearer. The choice of Mr Lowassa did not go down well with some Ukawa leaders and thus, Dr Slaa stepped down citing the reason that this action nullified their long standing principle against corruption. Prof Lipumba followed suit. He also stepped down as chairman of CUF saying that his “conscience” was “incensed”.
CUF’s then Secretary General, Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad continued to work with Ukawa, whereby constituencies were divided among themselves according to popularity of the individual parties or candidate although in some constituencies like Segerea they lost even after garnering more votes elsewhere.
This marked the end of party nominations and the start of the campaign trails.
All parties inaugurated their campaigns at Jangwani Grounds starting with CCM on August 23rd followed by Ukawa on August 29th – the beginning of party’s endeavours to outdo each other in pulling large crowds. CCM pulled thousands of people, supported by the former presidents – the late Benjamin Mkapa, Ali Hassan Mwinyi and Kikwete, whose term at the State House was coming to an end.