Growing speculation that former prime minister Edward Lowassa will defect to the opposition has polarised opinion across the political divide as CCM presidential candidate Dr John Magufuli tries to unite party foes and supporters ahead of the October General Election.
As analysts remained upbeat that Mr Lowassa’s defection would be CCM’s biggest shake-up ever, the ruling party maintained that it was unable to stop disgruntled members from leaving.
A week after Mr Lowassa was axed from the preliminary stages of the party nomination race, 18 CCM councillors from his Monduli constituency defected to the main opposition party Chadema in protest.
His supporters in CCM have called for urgent dialogue between him and the party hierarchy to heal and unite the party.
Veteran CCM cadre Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru has publicly attacked the party for not nominating Mr Lowassa, claiming that rules were bent to drop the former premier from the race. Saying CCM cannot win the election without Mr Lowassa’s support, he called upon the officials to negotiate with him.
“He has a strong base within the party and, therefore, it is important that the party sits down with him before the election,” said Mr Ngombare-Mwiru.
Proposals by key figures in the opposition coalition Ukawa to consider nominating Mr Lowassa as their presidential candidate have caused deep divisions in the outfit, with some members reportedly threatening to decamp if the plan is adopted.
It has been widely reported that Ukawa delayed the announcement of its presidential candidate to allow for negotiations with discontented factions in CCM who may express interest in an opposition ticket.
However, key figures in Chadema, including secretary-general Dr Wilbroad Slaa, were reportedly angered by the decision.
Sources told The EastAfrican that a section of Chadema’s central committee membership had protested the idea, citing the fact that Mr Lowassa was axed from the CCM nomination and Chadema has consistently branded him as corrupt. They feared that welcoming him would cause upheaval in the party.
Mr Lowassa’s long-time backers in CCM, as well as members of his family, were divided over whether leaving CCM was the best option for him.
Sources told The EastAfrican that they were unwilling to support Mr Lowassa outside CCM while young supporters and business people who have been financing him want him to leave.
“He is under pressure,” the source said. “The opposition want to start negotiating with him but his family isn’t supporting the idea.
“It is still unclear but he has only three days to make up his mind.”
However, other sources said CCM was not interested in talks with Mr Lowassa despite his team considering a deal.
Nape Nnauye, CCM’s publicity secretary, said the party could not stop people from leaving and those dissatisfied with the nomination should follow the right procedure to express their concerns.