Tanzania’s ruling Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM’s) central committee has nominated five presidential candidates amid fears that powerful politicians left out of the race could defect to the opposition.
The party said it has shortlisted January Makamba, Bernard Membe, Asha-Rose Migiro, John Magufuli and ambassador Saida Salum for the National Executive Committee (NEC) vote of 378 members.
The party is expected to announce its presidential candidate Saturday night after the national congress vote.
Nape Nnauye, the CCM publicity secretary confirmed the names and said NEC was meeting on Saturday morning to vote for the top three contenders.
The list differs by two names from the one sources said had been agreed upon before the central committee went on recess on Friday evening with Mr Membe and Ms Salum replacing retired chief justice Augustine Ramadhan who was seen as a front runner and East Africa Legislative Assembly member Makongoro Nyerere, son to founding president the late Mwalimu Julius Nyerere.
The elimination of former prime minister Edward Lowassa from the race came as a shock to his supporters who had viewed him as an inevitable candidate.
His supporters within the central committee were quick to dismiss the outcome, saying the party’s procedure which requires that the most popular candidate be given first priority in the race was not considered.
Dr Emmanuel Nchimbi, former minister for home affairs and central committee member said that the outcome was unfair and three members of the committee were disassociating themselves from the decision.
“Three of us (including Adam Kimbisa and Sophia Simba) have distanced ourselves from the decision by the CC. The party regulations were not followed because only a few names were represented and did not include the strongest candidate,” Dr Nchimbi said.
The central committee has a total of 38 members.
Mr Lowassa’s inner circle quickly gathered at his house to chart out the way forward but it was not immediately established what the plan was. However, sources within the faction said that his supporters were pushing him to defect to the opposition.
Mr Lowassa’s defeat ends his 25 years ambition to become the country’s top leader. If he defects, he would need to leave the party with a large group of numbers of MPs and CCM members to have a political impact. Else, he might choose to back the most viable candidate in the race.
However, other sources said NEC members supporting him are preparing to disrupt the national congress meeting and move a vote of no confidence against the party chairman, Mr Kikwete.
While Chadema has made it clear that it would not accept Mr Lowassa, some commentators said he might consider joining Zitto Kabwe’s newly established party, ACT – Wazalendo, which has been associated with him since its establishment. However, Mr Kabwe has vehemently denied any association with him.
The Opposition coalition is expected to announce its joint presidential candidate Saturday but sources hinted that there were disagreements among the coalition partners over proposal by the principal partner Chadema to nominate Dr Wilbroad Slaa, as its presidential candidate.
CUF and NCCR-Mageuzi preferred CUF chairman Prof Ibrahim Lipumba for the position. The three principle partners have been holed up in meetings for the last three days trying to resolve the impasse with Chadema inner circle suggesting that they would go ahead and field its candidate outside Ukawa if the negotiations failed.
Friday night, as soon as the central committee walked out of the meeting room, CCM cadres were seen at the party headquarters, where the meeting had taken place, chanting songs after it had become apparent that Mr Lowassa’s name was not shortlisted. However, armed police officers were quickly deployed to dismiss the crowd.
Party insiders see the 41 year-old January Makamba as one of the two contenders to clinch the nomination. He has introduced modern campaign within his party and helped excite the youth constituency, which has traditionally supported the opposition. His father, Yusuf Makamba is a former secretary-general of CCM and one of the party’s longest serving politicians. Makamba senior’s understanding of how the party operates will be his biggest advantage.
January Makamba is also influential within the party. Mr Makamba secured top two spots in the NEC national election. He is also seen as a modern politician who represents change in the party.
Foreign Affairs minister, Bernard Membe is another most likely CCM flag bearer. He is a former security analyst for the Tanzania Intelligence Services (TISS) before he ventured into politics. He is widely thought to have the support of President Kikwete and the first family and wide experience in government and the party.
Minister for Works John Magufuli is a long serving Cabinet minister, having served under both presidents Benjamin Mkapa and Kikwete. He is credited for helping build and rehabilitate major roads and seen as a hard working politician who keeps a low profile.
Former UN deputy secretary-general and Constitutional Affairs minister, Asha-rose Migiro is probably one of the most celebrated women in politics with wide knowledge of both the party and the government.
Ambassador Amina Ali is a former permanent representative of the African Union Mission to the USA and the only Zanzibari in the race. She is little known compared to the rest of the candidates but she has an advantage of coming from Zanzibar which holds around 150 votes in the NEC.