With the countdown to the Tanzanian presidential and legislative elections nearly reaching its conclusion the two key questions are whether CHADEMA can take a big chunk out of CCM’s majority, and what will happen on Zanzibar.
Opinion polls suggest CCM’s lead has been slipping over recent months, with CHADEMA making gains as a result. This will not, of course, result in a close election. CCM still has considerable popularity across the mainland. But signs are that it will not match 2005’s c. 80% of the vote. Support in recent opinion polls has fallen to low-70s (and below in one). Some reports point to a two-thirds majority for CCM. Substantial, yes, but it would see a larger opposition presence. Can CHADEMA capitalise on this?
But if eyes are captured on the mainland by, if not the prospect of a truly open election, the chance for a greater opposition voice emerging, on the Zanzibar the concern is over potential for a return to events of 2005 and the catastrophic election and violence of 2000.
So far the signs appear good. The deal to create a Government of National Unity is holding, and tensions so notable in past polls are more muted. But can CCM on the Islands resist the temptation to ensure it tops the polls by rigging the vote? Could its leaders really accept CUF coming first. And even assuming all is free and fair, will hardliners opposed to the GNU in CCM and CUF wreck the peace process?
International donors are watching this particular election with interest, with Tanzania’s favoured status on the line. On Zanzibar breaths are being held at the real prospect of a non-CCM president, with all the implications that has for stability within the Union government (the Zanzibari President automatically being one of the country’s Vice-Pres.)