PREVIEW-Tanzania’s Kikwete to win poll with tight margin

* President Kikwete popularity plunges, but expected to win

* Kikwete says religion being used to divide voters

* Violence-prone elections in Zanzibar seen peaceful

By Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala

DAR ES SALAAM, Oct 22 (BestGrowthStock) – Tanzanians will vote in a
presidential and parliamentary election on Oct. 31 that
incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete is expected to win despite
slipping in opinion polls in recent weeks.

Kikwete is seeking a second and final term in office after a
campaign dominated by promises to fight corruption and poverty
in east Africa’s second largest economy.

A presidential election will also be held on the same day on
the Indian Ocean archipelago of Zanzibar, which enjoys a degree
of autonomy within its union with Tanzania.

Polls on the palm-fringed islands off Tanzania were tainted
by bloodshed and allegations of vote rigging in 2000 and 2005.

Concern over corruption and weak governance have prompted
donors to give less development support than they had pledged
for the past few years.

“The election campaign has been very robust. We have an
incumbent president seeking re-election and a newcomer growing
in popularity at a time when the general mood is that of
change,” said Moses Kulaba, a political analyst.

Kikwete, 60, who won in 2005 with over 80 percent of the
vote, has seen his popularity plunge to 38 percent in October
from 77.2 percent in April, partly due to failed promises,
according to opinion polls.

Seven candidates are in the race, but only two are
considered serious contenders. [ID:nLDE69L0H7]

Kikwete of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party faces
a strong challenge from Willibrod Slaa of the Chadema party.

“TWO-HORSE RACE”

“I don’t think the ruling party will lose. I think Kikwete
will win with a small margin of the vote – probably between 50
to 65 percent of the vote,” said Kulaba.

“It’s a two-horse race between Kikwete and Slaa. This is
very historical because the Civic United Front (CUF) has
traditionally been the main opposition party in Tanzania.”

“Slaa has emerged as an unexpected presidential candidate
and his message of change is resonating with voters anxious for
a new direction,” political commentator Azaveli Lwaitama said.

The CUF’s presidential candidate, Ibrahim Lipumba, trails a
distant third in opinion polls.

“Kikwete is promising what he can’t deliver, while others
argue that Slaa has no experience and spends too much time
criticising the incumbent president instead of telling us what
he can do for this country,” said Asha Muhidin, a university
student in Dar es Salaam.

“On the other hand, I think Lipumba has been in the
presidential race for too long and has nothing new to offer.”

The 62-year-old Slaa has been campaigning on a platform of
change, with promises to end corruption and review mining
contractsin Africa’s third largest gold producer.

“The use of Tanzania’s natural resources for economic
development and how to address the problem of corruption have
been at the centre of debate in this election,” said Kulaba.

PLAYING WITH FIRE

Religion has emerged as a divisive issue in the run up to
the election.

Kikwete, a moderate Muslim, has criticised rivals for using
religion to gain a foothold in the election and warned that the
government would not tolerate any bloodshed.

Security forces are on alert ahead of the election, which is
expected to be peaceful with maybe a few incidents of violence.

A peaceful vote is expected in Zanzibar between the CUF’s
Seif Sharif Hamad and the ruling CCM party’s Ali Mohamed Shein.

Kikwete has described the archipelago as the “Achilles’
heel” of an otherwise peaceful union of 40 million people.

Zanzibar has approved a constitutional amendment that will
force the rival parties to share power by forming a coalition
government after the election, and analysts say its presidential
race is too close to call.

“There will be no winner and loser in this election because
CCM and CUF have agreed to the formation of a coalition
government after the election,” said Prof. Palamagamba Kabudi,
dean of the University of Dar es Salaam’s faculty of law.
(Editing by James Macharia)
(Email:[email protected]; +254 20 2224 717))(For
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PREVIEW-Tanzania’s Kikwete to win poll with tight margin