New Tanzania president sworn in while CCM clings to power

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Tanzanian general elections were held a fortnight ago. The incumbent president, Jakaya Kikwete, has served his two terms and steps down now. This won’t mean the end of rule by Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), which, counting in its predecessor Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), has held the power since the 60’s. This despite the restoration of multi-party system 20 years ago.

The new CCM flag-bearer is John Magufuli, who beat two female candidates in the preliminaries. It comes as no surprise, that after a sluggish tallying, Magufuli of CCM was declared the winner of the presidential election. Nevertheless, for the first time, CCM had to face a strong opposition candidate, Edward Lowassa of CHADEMA, who garnered 40% of votes, against Magufuli’s 58%.

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There are concerns of irregularities and rigging related to the elections. Opposition candidate Lowassa has rejected the election results, not accepting his defeat. Also the European Union has questioned credibility of the elections.  Add to this, the election results in Zanzibar we annulled altogether.

Who is Lowassa then?. He was thought to be the likely presidential candidate for CCM, but left the party only months before the elections. Instead he joined CHADEMA and was soon nominated the presidential candidate by the opposition coalition. Lowassa is a former Prime Minister of Tanzania, but was forced to resign in February 2008 due to a corruption scandal. Can such person still be taken as a credible presidential candidate? Apparently yes, given the share of votes Tanzanians gave him. Similar to many other African countries, tainted image does little to hamper political careers.

CCM-led Tanzania has not been a failure, but despite fast GDP growth since the millennium, poverty remains a major problem in the country. A change in leadership could be welcome, but that does not necessarily mean the new government would be any better. However being ruled by one party for decades, Tanzania has a long way to go before being considered a mature democracy.

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