Dar es Salaam — THE surprise return of former Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, to Tanzania's ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) is a major boost to the prospects of Africa's longest-serving liberation movement's prospects of extending its grip when elections are held next year.
After smoking the peace pipe with his former adversary, current president, John Magufuli, the veteran politician's return "home" to CCM is timely as political parties have begun campaigns for the poll, albeit in contravention of the National Elections Act.
The legislation stipulates that campaigns only begin three months before polls.
Lowassa- prime minister from 2005 to 2008- quit CCM in 2015 after the party did not nominate him to succeed then-president, Jakaya Kikwete, as the party's flag bearer in the presidential poll later that year.
He tore into the party upon his exit, denouncing it as "infested with leaders who are dictators, undemocratic and surrounded with greedy power mongers."
Lowassa crossed the floor to the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA, or Party for Democracy and Progress in Swahili).
He came up against Magufuli in the presidential poll but emerged second with 39,97 percent of the vote to the winner's 58,46 percent.
Lowassa refused to acknowledge Magufuli as the winner, claiming the exercise was rigged.
However, upon his return to CCM, which has dominated Tanzania's politics since independence from Britain in 1961, he spoke favourably of Magufuli.
Formerly a Minister of Water and Livestock Development, Lowassa disclosed Magufuli had persuaded him to rejoin.
"I thank the president for his love and conviction. I am joining him in the best interests of the country," he said in the northeastern town of Monduli in the Arusha region.
"I have come back home to cooperate in development and work with President Magufuli," he added.
Dr Bashiru Ally, the CCM Secretary General, expressed excitement at Lowassa "returning home."
He hinted the party was beginning preparations for next year's poll.
"We are starting work to build our country and safeguard our independence," Bashiru said at an event to welcome Lowassa at the party's headquarters in Dar es Salaam.
Magufuli and Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa attended.
Socio-political commentator, James Bendera, said the move by Lowassa was a boost to the ruling party's prospects and a blow to the opposition ahead of the next poll.
"The elections are merely a formality," he said.
Bendera projected the CCM to win by a bigger margin than in 2015.
"Some of the 6 million people who voted for Lowassa are CCM supporters that were enraged by the way the party prompted his exit," he said.
CHADEMA spokesperson, Tumaini Makene, told media the party was undeterred by Lowassa's exit.
"He used his constitutional right. We wish him all the best," Makene said.