This is an election year. But for a long time, it really never felt like it.
This is partly due to the fact that the 2010 presidential campaign promises to be a boring affair. I mean everyone, justifiably so, assumes that President Kikwete will be re-nominated by his party, CCM. It is also expected that he will proceed to win another landslide in October. He is unchallenged within his party, which seems to operate under an unspoken rule that says an incumbent ought to be allowed to run unopposed for their second term ‘to allow for the implementation of “any unfinished” business’ they may have.
But also one does not see any credible challenger emerging from the opposition. Civic United Front (CUF) are likely to nominate a man who has lost three elections in a row in Professor Ibrahim Lipumba. That does not inspire much confidence, does it? Chadema, well I am not sure what exactly they are up to. The party’s nominee for the 2005 election, Chairman Freeman Mbowe, has decided to run for parliament this time around. In The Citizen’s Political Platform today (link unavailable), Florence Mugarula writes that it ‘remains unclear so far…whether the party will be fielding a presidential candidate.’ Another former losing candidate, the Tanzania Labour Party’s (TLP) Chairman, Augustine Mrema, has also decided against vying for the presidency this election cycle and instead has chosen to run for the Vunjo parliamentary seat in Arusha. So, with all that in mind, I guess it’s fair to say that come November 1st, Mheshimiwa Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete will still be President of the United Republic of Tanzania.
For me, however, this election year holds particular fascination for what it might reveal about the next one in 2015. That is, which figures will emerge during the campaign, start to distinguish and position themselves as contenders for the next general election. And following Vice President Ali Mohammed Shein’s decision to run for the Zanzibari presidency, everyone is now talking about it. If Mr. Shein wins his party’s nomination, a prospect that appears highly likely as he seems to have the party’s establishment behind him (also my understanding is, he is also CUF’s preferred candidate as they see him to be the man who would consolidate the recent gains made in the ‘Muafaka’ reconciliation process), then Mr. Kikwete would have to select a new running mate. And whomever the President chooses he immediately becomes the front runner and the favorite to win CCM’s presidential nomination five years from now.
Rai Mwema has already begun to speculate on who might succeed Mr. Shein. Last week apparently it was former Finance Minister Zakia Meghji, former Prime Minister and Diplomat Dr. Salim Ahmed Salim and they even threw the retiring Zanzibari president Amani Abeid Karume‘s name into the mix. In this week’s edition, a few other names have been added: former PM Edward Lowassa, Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe, Water and Irrigation Minister Prof. Mark Mwandosya, Home Affairs Minister Lawrence Mwasha, Deputy Minister of Defence Dr. Emmanuel Nchimbi and another former PM Frederick Sumaye (link unavailable). MwanaHalisi are also suggesting something similar on their front page today but they’ve gone further, claiming that President Kikwete actually wants President Karume to succeed him in 2015 (link unavailable).
Despite all this speculation, the consensus seems to be, whomever the President picks, it will be a big tell as to who he wants to succeed him after he leaves office. Of course it could also be the case that Vice-President Shein is merely being parked over there in Zanzibar so that he could take over in five years time. After all, isn’t it also another of CCM’s unspoken agreements that a President from the mainland should be succeeded by a politician from Zanzibar?
Anyway, all of a sudden the election campaign has burst into life. I can’t wait for 2015.
(Photo: Wednesday 23 June 2010 morning newspapers by Salim Ally)