More than 30 contenders have collected official paperwork through the ruling CCM party to apply for the vacant seat of Speaker of Tanzania's National Assembly. Several contenders are being touted as frontrunners to succeed Job Ndugai who resigned on January 6.
Deputy Speaker Tulia Ackson is one of those considered frontrunners. She faces tough competition for the party's nomination from former Pan-African Parliament vice-president Stephen Masele, former attorney general Andrew Chenge, and former CCM Women's Wing chairperson Sophia Simba, in the February 1 poll.
As CCM completed the initial confirmation of candidates on Saturday ahead of the coming week's final elimination process, there was no news on opposition parties’ contestants for the seat. The election of the Speaker will be the first order of business when Parliament resumes its next session in Dodoma.
The House as presently constituted is has majority CCM legislators following the October 2020 general election, in which the ruling party trounced the opposition.
Of the 393 sitting MPs, 362 are from CCM with just three other parties — Chadema, Civic United Front and ACT-Wazalendo — sharing the remaining 31 seats.
Ms Ackson, who is the MP for Mbeya Urban, is the favourite to succeed Mr Ndugai, not least because her promotion would also serve well the gender parity push by President Samia.
But the current political infighting within CCM, which was also the underlying factor behind Mr Ndugai’s departure, could also prove to be Ms Ackson's undoing, as both she and her former boss were regarded as willing collaborators in the authoritarian regime led by President Samia's predecessor John Magufuli.
Their history ties them to the Magufuli loyalist brigade who are causing the incumbent president headaches in the ruling party.
Observers see Ms Simba as a safer choice. She fits the gender agenda and has a longer political working relationship with President Samia, especially at the level of CCM women’s wing.
The final CCM pick for Speaker will be made by the party's top decision-making organ, the central committee, which President Samia chairs, on January 19.
Of the others in contention as favourities, 42-year old Mr Masele fell foul of Mr Ndugai during his stint in the Pan-African Parliament in 2019, and many say that is why he lost his Shinyanga Urban constituency seat to a CCM newcomer in the 2020 poll.
He has since maintained a low political profile.
Mr Chenge, at 73 years old, was Tanzania's attorney-general from 1993 to 2005 and later served as minister for East African Co-operation under former president Jakaya Kikwete. He has immense public and political experience.
But his integrity was put to question when during his time as attorney-general, he was associated with international government contracts that were later exposed as non-beneficial to the country.
Like Mr Masele, Mr Chenge also lost his parliamentary seat in 2020.
Mr Lukuvi is seen as a potential Mr Ndugai replacement mainly because of his reputation as a loyal but wily veteran of past governments with no known links to CCM factions.
But President Samia has other plans for him and has said she would consider him for the job of "government sectoral co-ordinator” under Prime Minister Kassim Majaliwa.
Another ousted minister, also a known Magufuli loyalist, Palamagamba Kabudi — a former Constitutional Affairs Minister — will oversee contract negotiations between the government and potential international development partners. Both positions will be under the presidency in an advisory capacity.
President Samia's Cabinet reshuffle, which she had initially said would be aimed at “removing people within CCM who may be eyeing the presidency", was not as radical as widely expected given the emergence of factional politics within CCM, but it still reflected her resolve to mould the party and government to her liking.