With just a little over three weeks before Tanzania’s presidential polls set for 28 October, incumbent President John P. Magufuli is busy cris-crossing the country, while an opposition candidate is suspended from the race.
Tanzania’s electoral commission suspended opposition candidate Tundu Lissu’s presidential campaigns on 2 October, as punishment for alleged ethics violations following remarks he made while on the campaign trail.
The electoral commission’s ethics body said it had received complaints from two political parties, one being the ruling party CCM, about remarks Lissu had made saying President Magufuli had met election officials in the capital.
After the news became public, Lissu called the decision “rough justice”, and said it was “yet another proof of a discredited and a compromised electoral system.”
Lissu’s party Chadema said on 4 October that it would obey the suspension, but its chairman Freeman Mbowe said it would file a suit in court “for the records.”
The decision means that Lissu, who had initially said he would continue his campaigns anyway, cannot campaign until the 7-day suspension lapses.
“Hon. Tundu Lissu will engage in social activities in his capacity as the vice chair of the party,” Mbowe said at a press conference on Sunday.
It seemed as if the campaign would go on with Lissu’s running mate, Salum Mwalimu, seen here in a tweet on 5 October by Chadema party.
The suspension is the latest in a series of hurdles facing the country’s opposition, which has had to navigate a hostile political environment since Magufuli was first elected in 2015. In June, for example, Mbowe was attacked in the capital just days after Lissu announced his candidature.
In the midst of campaigns in late September, Lissu’s convoy was teargassed in northern Tanzania, after what local media reported was a disagreement with the police on the best route to take to the Serengeti.
An aide to Bernard Membe, a former ruling party minister who is seeking the presidency on the ACT-Wazalendo, was arrested in mid-September and held for a week on suspicion of money laundering.
While the police insisted that it had in fact arrested two of Membe’s aides, the presidential candidate said on Twitter that only one aide had been detained.
Zanzibar and coalition politics
Meanwhile, President Magufuli landed in the semi-autonomous region of Zanzibar on 3 October to campaign for the ruling party’s candidate in the region.
Unlike on the mainland, where Magufuli is running for re-election, Zanzibar’s current president Ali Mohammed Shein is at the end of his two-terms, and the electoral race to replace him is as important to the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) as Magufuli’s re-election.
There, CCM is fronting Dr. Hussein Ali Mwinyi, the current Minister of Defence and National Service in Magufuli’s government. His main challenger is Maalim Seif Sharif Hamad, who is making his sixth run for the presidency on an ACT-Wazalendo (Alliance for Change and Transparency) ticket after resigning from his long-term party, the CUF (Civic United Front) in March 2019.
As part of ongoing partnership negotiations between CHADEMA and ACT-Wazalendo, the former said it would withdraw its candidate and support Hamad’s run.
The deal between the two parties will be “a loose cooperation and not a formal coalition,” a senior opposition leader told the newspaper Bloomberg.
The distinction is important because Tanzania laws require coalition agreements to be filed three months before nominations, a point the authorities had pointed out when news of an opposition coalition first became public.
The partnership between the two opposition parties is expected to extend to the Union presidency, as several ACT-Wazalendo members have voiced open support for Lissu’s candidature since September.
This article was published by The Africa Report.