The CCM choice of presidential candidate is likely to be the country’s next president. And the party’s governing bodies are making their choice this week.
As much of Tanzania waits for the decision, here are the four key questions/challenges for the CCM leadership to resolve:
1. To Lowassa or not to Lowassa?
This is the big one. Edward Lowassa’s public popularity and financial muscle mean that if he makes it into the final five, he is almost guaranteed to sail through the rest of the process, (where the number of people involved in making decisions is much larger,) and win the nomination. But his tainted reputation means that many in the Central Committee (CC) will be very reluctant to include him on their list. Though he is not the only aspirant to be tainted by past corruption scandals or with links to wealthy backers, he is at the top of both such lists.
If they include him, they risk a loss of credibility and the possible departure of both long-time party stalwarts and new blood. If they leave him out, he could take his popularity and financial backing elsewhere. Either way, it could potentially lead to an almighty row.
2. Can the party find a way to drop Lowassa without causing a damaging split?
The delays that have taken place in Dodoma are very possibly the result of trying to deal with this challenge. Will Lowassa be offered a sweetener – the Vice Presidential spot, perhaps, or his old job as Prime Minister? And is there anything they can offer that he will consider to be good enough?
CCM has demonstrated staying power, partly though ideology and history, but partly though their ability to manage internal dissent through compromise. Anyone doubting their ability to find a solution to this challenge is going against history. But perhaps the party has never faced such a difficult challenge before?
3. If the CC drops Lowassa, what reason will they give?
The party’s Secretary of Ideology and Propaganda, Nape Nnauye, explained earlier this week that there will be no “right of appeal” against the party’s decisions, and that nothing in the party’s constitution requires that they explain the reasons behind their choices. However, if Lowassa gets dropped, the demand for an explanation from the media and the public (as well as Lowassa himself) will be intense. So what reason will they give?
They could say they have concerns about Lowassa’s health, or they could argue that he broke party rules (or the Election Expenses Act) in some way during his campaign thus far. In the latter case, the CC may have no option but to drop several other aspirants as well – probably the six whose wrists were earlier slapped for starting their campaigns too early: Lowassa, Membe, Wasira, Makamba, Sumaye and Ngeleja. But this list includes at least three others (besides Lowassa) who are likely to have considerable support both within the party’s leadership and beyond, so dropping them all will not be done lightly.
Or it could be decreed that it is time for a change in some way. After two consecutive presidents from the mainland, is it time for a Zanzibari? Or is it time for a new generation? Or for a woman? This is how Anna Makinda became the speaker of parliament, but it seems unlikely that the party would treat the highest office in the land in this way.
4. If Lowassa is dropped, who will be included?
Almost every other candidate’s campaign has been (subtly or otherwise) about undermining Lowassa. Every remark about the need to “clean the party” and do better at combating corruption is making this point, in code. Every comment about money in politics, particularly in the nomination process, is the same. Other candidates have focussed on him, the media has focussed on him, and the talk on the street is the same. Which means, if he is dropped, suddenly the game changes dramatically.
So who might the CC include in the final five? The leading contenders are:
- Bernard Membe – Minister of Foreign Affairs, said to be a favourite of Kikwete
- Mizengo Pinda – Prime Minister, self-declared “son of a peasant farmer”
- Mohamed Bilal – current Vice President, Zanzibari
- Augustino Ramadhani – former Chief Justice, Zanzibari, Anglican Priest and another reported favourite of senior party figures
- Mark Mwandosya – experienced Minister, currently “Minister without Portfolio”
- Stephen Wasira – another experienced Minister, head of the party’s manifesto team
- John Magufuli – another experienced Minister, reputation for delivery
- January Makamba – Deputy Minister of Communications, Science and Technology, probably the leading “youth” candidate
- Asha-Rose Migiro – Minister of justice and Constitutional Affairs, former Deputy UN Secretary General, only female candidate seriously in the running
- Mwigulu Nchemba – Deputy Finance Minister, former deputy CCM Secretary General, another youth candidate
- Makongoro Nyerere – son of Julius Nyerere, currently an MP in the East African Assembly, has led a campaign heavily focussed on ridding the party of corruption
- Samwel Sitta – former Speaker, currently Minister of Transport
Others who deserve a mention are current and former Ministers Harrison Mwakyembe, William Ngeleja, Sospeter Muhongo, Frederick Sumaye, Lazaro Nyalandu and Mathias Chikawe, as well as Ambassador Augustine Mahiga. But the list goes on some way beyond this.
The CC may well include an element of tokenism in their choice. A final five that didn’t include a Zanzibari, a woman and a young candidate would be a little embarrassing. Equally, leaving out the current Prime Minister would look odd.
The country waits
According to the new timetable announced by Nnauye this morning, the Ethics and Security Committee, the Central Committee and the National Executive Committee are all set to hold their meetings today. That is ambitious, and may well prove impossible. But if it goes to plan, we will hear the announcement of the final five around 6pm this evening (4pm in the UK), and then the final three sometime later into the night.
The final selection will come at a meeting of the party’s National Congress, due tomorrow. Until then, the country waits.