Surprise winner Magufuli vows to unite Chama cha Mapinduzi

Saturday July 18 2015

CCM presidential candidate Dr John Pombe

CCM presidential candidate Dr John Pombe Magufuli and his running mate Ms Samia Suluhu Hassan. PHOTO | EDWIN MJWAHUZI 

By ERICK KABENDERA, The EastAfrican

The nomination of Works Minister John Pombe Magufuli as Chama cha Mapinduzi’s presidential candidate came as a surprise to most as he was considered a neutral candidate and few party insiders expected him to win the nomination.

However, CCM insiders said former president Benjamin Mkapa quietly pushed for Dr Magufuli’s candidacy within the ranks of the party, having recruited him as deputy minister of works when he became president in 1995.

After weeks of a tug-of-war between factions of CCM stalwarts, Tanzania’s ruling party now needs to unite ahead of the October election.

In his acceptance speech, Dr Magufuli said he would unite the party and help it win the next election.

Dr Magufuli’s nomination also marks the end of former premier Edward Lowassa’s bid for the presidency. He had been seen as a frontrunner in the race due to his popularity.

After the CCM nomination process, The EastAfrican understands that Mr Lowassa had been under pressure to join the Chadema party.

On July 14, reporters were called to his house for a briefing but it was cancelled barely 10 minutes before it was scheduled to start. Senior officials in his campaign team now say he has shelved plans to defect.

“He will now return to his constituency in Monduli to retire. That was his last attempt at vying for the presidency and a parliamentay seat,” a senior aide said.

Deputy Minister for Communications, Science and Technology January Makamba, who was also vying in the nomination race, has since announced that he will return to his constituency to seek re-election as an MP.

The other hopefuls who made it to the top five are Foreign Affairs Minister Bernard Membe, ambassador Amina Salum Ali and Minister for Constitution Affairs Asha-Rose Migiro.

Despite Dr Magufuli being a highly regarded minister who served in President Benjamin Mkapa’s government (1995-2005) and President Jakaya Kikwete’s government (2005-2015), he had been seen as an underdog in the race.

But last-minute intrigues, including support from former president Benjamin Mkapa and combined votes from members of the national executive committee, handed him the victory.

Dr Magufuli named Samia Suluhu Hassan, Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office for Union Affairs, as his running mate. If CCM wins the election, Ms Hassan will be the first woman to be vice-president since Independence.

Decision process

It is still unclear how the decision to nominate her was arrived at, but sources said Dr Magufuli and party elders picked her because she is a Zanzibari who understands the challenges facing the Union, having worked closely with a team addressing Union issues for almost a decade.

Three scenarios may have helped Dr Magufuli win the nomination. Some sources point out that after Mr Lowassa’s name was deleted at the early stages of the race, his faction, which was thought to control majority support within the 378-strong national executive council, could have asked their supporters to vote for anybody else but Mr Makamba and Mr Membe.

Mr Makamba is said to have defected from Mr Lowassa’s faction three years ago to run his own campaign and it is understood that Mr Lowassa’s team was unhappy with the decision and therefore decided to vote against him.

At the NEC meeting, efforts by Mr Lowassa’s supporters to pressure members to back him failed, leaving them only the option of supporting a “weak” candidate so that they could later defect to the opposition.

Mr Makamba and Mr Membe failed to make it to the top three, paving the way for Dr Magufuli, Ms Ali and Dr Migiro to make it to the last round of the nomination process.

The national congress final tally showed that Dr Magufuli got 2,104 votes (87.1 per cent), Ms Ali garnered 253 votes (10.5 per cent) and Dr Migiro 59 votes (2.4 per cent).