Tanzania Opposition Frets Ahead of Local Government Polls

Dar — THE decision by Tanzania's main opposition parties to boycott polls scheduled for this weekend highlights the contrasting fortunes between the concerned organisations and the ruling party ahead of general elections next year.

Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA- Swahili for Party for Democracy and Progress), the major opposition, has snubbed the local government polls set for Sunday.

These polls will precede the general elections scheduled for 2020.

Next year's exercise has been projected to be a two-horse race between CHADEMA and the governing Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution-CCM).

However, with CHADEMA pulling out of this weekend round of polls, raising allegations of manipulation by electoral authorities, it remains to be seen if the party will contest the general elections in 2020.

Analysts dismissed claims by the opposition that preparations for this weekend's election had irregularities, rather arguing CHADEMA's was ill-prepared.

CHADEMA, still reeling from the loss of the 2015 general election in which its preferred candidate, the former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, lost the presidential race to eventual winner, John Joseph Magufuli.

Lowassa has since returned to the ruling party, further deflating any hopes of CHADEMA mounting a serious challenge to CCM, the longest ruling party in the African continent since the demise of South Africa's National Party.

Socio-political commentator, James Bendera, opined, "CHADEMA's house is not in order. It is not in a good shape to participate in any elections."

He argued the opposition movement was beset by factional unease, pointing to the uncertainty around its internal elections.

Its polls have been shrouded in uncertainty and it has taken the intervention Office of the Registrar of Political Parties to order the party to release its poll timetable.

The party has failed to meet deadlines for the poll to elect new leadership after the tenure of the current executive led by chairman, Freeman Mbowe, elapsed. It is likely the in-house poll will be staged next year.

"This represents a circus in that this is the same year general polls are held. One doubts CHADEMA will be prepared, if they will participate in any case," Bendera said.

Adika Ezekiel, a political commentator, said in contrast, the fortunes of CCM were admirable.

The ruling party was during the last poll beset by infighting over the successor to Jakaya Kikwete. Magufuli triumphed. Lowassa quit the party.

"Magufuli has since his election been healing the rifts caused by that period of factionalism and now leads a united party. The return of Lowassa is also a major boost to the governing party. They are a safe bet to continue at the helm of Tanzanian politics," Ezekiel said.

The analyst said while Alliance for Change and Transparency (ACT-Wazalendo), Civic United Front (CUF) and National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR-Mageuzi) had also boycotted, CHADEMA's snub was the most prominent.

"CHADEMA is only riding on the wave of the politics of boycott. It was never ready for the poll. The other parties will never stand a chance against CHADEMA," Ezekiel said.

This week, the Catholic Church urged the parties against boycotting, as this was against the church's values.

It is the first time parties have withdrawn from an election for Tanzania. They also cite a ban on political rallies that Magufuli imposed in 2015.

CCM is not exempt from the ban.

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