For what is believed to be the first time in some fifty years, Tanzania’s ruling party – the Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) – has lost a parliamentary by-election. It happened on 1 April 2012 in the Arumeru East constituency, Arusha region. The result had been expected to be close, but in fact the rapidly growing leading opposition party, the Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema), won the seat comfortably.
The results were as follows:
Joshua Nassari Chadema 32,972 (54%)
Sioi Sumari CCM 26,757 (44%)
The CCM candidate was the son of the previous MP for the area who had died a few months earlier. He received support during the campaign from former President Benjamin Mkapa amongst others. There were six other candidates but they all got less than 100 votes. In a trend which is causing growing concern, only 60,696 voters, out of 120,000 who had registered, actually voted.
Political analysts have been having a field day in estimating how this result will influence the next general election in 2015. They note that Chadema has secured victory in all strategic constituencies in Northern Tanzania from Karatu and Arusha Urban to Arumeru (which borders the Moshi-Arusha road), Hai, Rombo and Moshi Urban. Many observers felt that the 50 year old CCM party had failed to respond adequately to the allegations levelled by Chadema that the country’s poverty was linked to the corrupt practices of some CCM officials.
CCM Ideology and Publicity Secretary Nape Nnayuye was quoted as saying that CCM had made radical reforms to check its weaknesses, including unethical conduct among the rank and file. He said that the party had reduced the problem of unethical conduct by 50 per cent.
CCM maintains high levels of support in rural areas but Chadema is gaining more and more support in towns and cities. One observer commented: ‘The era of CCM landslides is over, Chadema is emerging as a serious threat to CCM’s dominance while the small parties seem to be fading away’.
There were no major incidents on election day and the voting went smoothly. However, in the weeks before the by-election there were many incidents, most of them minor but a few involving violence. Several of the worst were during the initial selection of the party candidates where there was intense competition between senior party members.
Some of the CCM cadres who participated in the campaigns said: “There are some Chadema leaders who have been personally, or through their agents, going around Arumeru East collecting or sometimes buying voters’ cards.”
CCM cadres were said to have ‘hijacked’ a Chadema leader and later admitted that they had held one for interrogation but did not harm him. They said that they wanted to question the man as part of a follow-up on Chadema misdeeds. They were questioned by Usa River police but later let out on bail.
Chadema refuted reports that their cadres were buying voters’ cards. They said that they were only verifying the cards, using a permanent voters’ register, which was allowed by law.
CCM candidate Sioi said: “I’m contesting through a party which has a clean record on development….you have seen examples of the good projects which have been implemented by CCM….we have a record here of electing presidents and members of parliament by 100 per cent of the votes… Please vote for me to maintain the record”.