Former prime minister Edward Lowassa ‒ once seen as a leading contender for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party nomination ‒ had been invited to join the opposition coalition Ukawa ahead of October’s general elections, the four opposition parties announced Lowassa as their joint presidential candidate .
This comes close on the heels of reports that Lowassa defected from the CCM on 29 July 2015 claiming that the party’s leadership was “oppressive” and “infested with leaders who are dictators, undemocratic and surrounded with greedy power mongers.” He joined the ranks of coalition member Chadema ‒ Tanzania’s biggest opposition party – telling delegates at a political gathering in the capital, Dar es Salaam, that “I have come to join you for a reason, to remove CCM from power.”
Lowassa has received an enthusiastic welcome from Chadema and opposition supporters, somewhat ironic given the fact that Chadema previously named him on its ‘List of Shame’ of government leaders with corruption allegations against them. The party now defends Lowassa insisting that the allegations against him were never proven.
Facing off against Lowassa will be the candidate announced by the CCM on 12 July, namely Works Minister John Magufuli, a long-serving cabinet minister from the gold-rich lake zone area, which is Tanzania’s biggest electoral bloc.
Lowassa’s candidacy could well signal some shake-ups in the Tanzanian political space, especially if any significant number of opposition voters shift their votes in allegiance as many expect. Combined with infighting in the CCM some observers believe the opposition’s chances are looking good at this point, especially on the back of CCM losses (20%) in the last election and a deepening voter apathy that saw voter turnout hit a bleak 43%.
With a stable Tanzania vital to see the nation optimise the development of its nascent hydrocarbons industry the potential for any seismic shift in leadership is bound to make some stakeholders nervous. With analysts variously predicting that the CCM will retain power, and that Lowassa’s candidacy for the opposition could change everything, the rest of 2015 could be critical in managing a smooth transition for the country politically and economically.