Tanzania's October 25 General Election will be the most tightly contested election in the country's history after hugely popular former Prime Minister, Edward Lowassa, defected from the ruling party to join the main opposition bloc.
Lowassa defected in late July after he was eliminated from the list of presidential aspirants for the ruling party Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). He announced his intention to run for the opposition bloc Chama Cha Demokrasia and Maendeleo (Chadema) shortly after.
Lowassa claims that he unfairly lost his bid to become the ruling party's candidate. He now represents a union of four political parties fighting for the adoption of a new constitution.
Given that Lowassa commands huge support, especially from young people, this is the first time during the history of multiparty politics that the country's opposition has a genuine chance of winning.
After Lowassa’s defection, a number of key members of the ruling party including Members of Parliament, councilors and regional officials followed him to Chadema.
His switchover has ruffled feathers, however.
He has constantly denied that his office was involved in accepting kickbacks for a major energy contract from American company Richmond Development.
Some members of Chadema have left the party in protest.
But Chadema's chances may be boosted by the appearance of Juma Duni Haji as Lowassa's running mate.
Haji, who has run on opposition tickets in Tanzanian presidential elections in the past, was Minister of Infrastructure and Communications until Lowassa defected.
‘Liberation time is now’
Lowassa’s popularity was clearly noted when his nomination was endorsed by 1.5 million people.
The YouTube video below from AyoTV shows the day Lowassa got nomination forms:
Lowassa brought Dar Es Salaam to a halt. The only other time Dar Es Salaam had witnessed such a huge crowd was when U.S. President Barack Obama visited the country in 2013.
Social media networks are abuzz with excitement. If elections took place on Twitter, the outcome would be as good as determined.
@EdwardLowassa Mungu mwema kilio chetu watz kwa muda mrefu hatimae kimepata majibu. Saa ya ukombozi ni sasa. Tar 25 Oct tupige kura wote.
— Amdan Mushalaba (@AMushalaba) August 15, 2015
Good God, our cry has been heard at last. Liberation time is now. Lets all vote on October 25.
Lowassa ni Robin Hood wa Kimasai. Au ni El Chapo wa kitanzania. Look at the hands he touches and not the toes he stepped on 😂😂
— Albert Gasper Msando (@AlbertMsando) August 10, 2015
Lowassa is a Maasai Robin Hood. Or Tanzanian El Chapo. Look at the hands he touches and not the toes he stepped on.
Mwamfupe Anyisile advised the ruling party:
@EdwardLowassa wajiandae tu kisaikolojia kuitoa Ikulu kwa amani pasi na shurtisho lolote
— Mwamfupe Anyisile (@Anyisile) August 15, 2015
They [the ruling party] should prepare themselves psychologically to leave the state house in peace without any force.
Given Edward wished:
If the elections are to be held today, I'm pretty sure Lowassa is going to *drops phone*
— Given Edward (@GIVENALITY) August 11, 2015
4 Samaritan Lepers described Lowassa’s charisma thus:
Lowassa is that guy who walks into your ‘area’ and all of a sudden you forget what you were doing. Looks at you and says, “FOLLOW ME.” 😃😃
— 4 Samaritan Lepers (@SwahiliBible) August 11, 2015
DirectoR NiCKLASS touched on a stereotype that associates Chadema leaders with khaki fatigues:
@EdwardLowassa mheshimiwa, watanzania tuna ham kuu ya kukuona katika gwanda la kaki
— DirectoR NiCKLASS (@NicklassM) August 5, 2015
Honorable Lowassa, Tanzanians are anxious to see you in khaki fatigues.
Responding to the argument that Chadema is not old enough to govern, Edward Lowassa himself said:
Wanaosema CHADEMA haiwezi kuongoza, kwamba ni chama kichanga hawajitambui. TANU ilikabidhiwa nchi ikiwa na miaka 7, CHADEMA ina miaka 23.
— Edward Lowassa (@EdwardLowassa) August 4, 2015
Those who say Chadema cannot govern because it is still young do not understand. TANU [the party that won Tanzanian’s independence] governed the country when it was 7 years old, Chadema is 23 years old.
Isack Danford tweeted:
— Isack Danford (@IsackDanford) August 15, 2015
Public defiance. Changes in the making. CCM should completely go, I don’t like them.
Mwamfupe Anyisile gave away her voting preference:
Let @EdwardLowassa be the Tanzania Fifth president,
— Mwamfupe Anyisile (@Anyisile) August 15, 2015
And Leylah Malweezy believes Lowassa has divine backing:
— Leylah Malweezy (@LMalweezy) August 15, 2015
You are truly God’s choice, I even see you as president already. May God bless you to be the winner.
On a lighter note, George Roberts shared a photo showing Chadema’s unique choice of space for publicity:
Tanzanian opposition party using every available bit of space for some publicity at today's Chadema rally in Mbeya https://t.co/gmSm0leUdB
— George Roberts (@g_m_roberts) August 14, 2015
But not everyone supports Lowassa and Chadema.
Responding to Musa Kilembo's observation that Lowassa has created a catch-22 for voters Evarist Chahali said:
.@KailemboMusa Me too. I have not only fought vs CCM's injustices but paid hefty price too. However,I've no faith in Lowassa as alternative
— Evarist Chahali (@Chahali) August 15, 2015
Suphian Juma does not trust Lowassa:
— Suphian Juma (@SuphianJuma) August 15, 2015
While Bernard Matungwa wrote:
Two main objectives for Chadema First: Make CCM an opposition party. Second: Loot the country! Terrible. Just terrible!
— Bernard Matungwa (@BMatungwa) August 9, 2015
Nathaniel Imani took a jab at Lowassa’s past:
ukiwa mwenye dhambi fisadi mla rushwa ukija #chadema utakuwa mtakatifu eeeh
— nathaniel imani (@nathanielimani) August 7, 2015
If you are sinful and corrupt, when you join Chadema you become a saint.
And Hamisi Kigwangalla is hopeful the ruling CCM will withstand the current crisis:
— Hamisi Kigwangalla (@hkigwangalla) August 6, 2015