The Tanzanian Coalition of Four Opposition Parties, Ukawa, has officially invited former Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, to join them ahead of the general elections in October.
At a press conference on 27 July 2015, the national chairpersons of all political parties forming the coalition announced that they officially welcomed the former premier to the camp, fuelling speculation that Lowassa will run for the presidency as the Ukawa candidate after losing out on the same ticket in the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) race.
Senior officials of the CCM Central Committee excluded Lowassa from the list of aspiring candidates to lead the party in the 25 October general election. He was widely viewed as the front-runner in the presidential race, but his opponents in the CCM accuse him of being divisive and tainted with corruption.
James Mbatia, National Chairman of Ukawa member the National Convention for Construction and Reform – Mageuzi (NCCR-Mageuzi), said the coalition would announce its presidential flag bearer next week, but continued to praise Lowassa, signalling that a deal had already been sealed. He said “We take this special opportunity to invite former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa to join Ukawa and we are ready to work with him to ensure we remove CCM” noting that general elections were the only chance to remove the CCM, which has ruled the country since independence in 1961, from power.
Mbatia said Tanzanians needed a leadership with vision, discipline and integrity, claiming the country was facing a leadership vacuum that had caused cracks in society.
National Chairperson for another Ukawa member, the National League for Democracy (NLD), Dr Emmanuel Makaidi, also committed himself to supporting Lowassa.
If Lowassa does decide to defect and run for president, he could very well take a large chunk of CCM supporters with him to vote for the opposition coalition. At the same time tension and infighting within the ruling CCM party will further boost Ukawa’s chances of winning the presidential vote with Lowassa as candidate.
Earlier, Tundu Lissu of the Chadema party said the Ukawa coalition will take advantage of the apparent split among supporters of the ruling party to win and was emphatic that this is “the end game for CCM and it has been this way for quite a while. The fact that Edward Lowassa has been taken out of the race by CCM will definitely cause even bigger tension and divisions within the party. It will surely put us in a much better position to win power in October. “
Analysts agree that Lowassa’s defection would be CCM’s biggest shake-up ever, a viewpoint strengthened by the defection of 18 CCM councillors from his Monduli constituency to the Chadema party a week after he was axed from the preliminary stages of the CCM nomination race.
It should be noted that the CCM’s share of the vote at the last election, in 2010, was 20% down on previous polls while apathy due to the inevitability of a CCM victory saw overall voter turnout collapse to 43%.
Therefore, the October 2015 elections will not only be a test of whether the party can rebuild its popular support base after this disappointing showing, and having to do it against a newly united opposition, but it will also face a stark challenge in healing internal fissures and longstanding factionalism .