December 9, 2005

Election for President Mkapa's successor

Over 15 million Tanzanian voters are expected to elect a successor to President Benjamin Mkapa on 14 December. The Union poll had initially been announced for 30 October but was postponed due to the death of the running mate of Freeman Mbowe, the presidential candidate of Chama Cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (Chadema). This meant that the National Election Commission (NEC) fixed the new date for the Union elections to 14 December, as stipulated in the electoral law. This was to give Chadema a chance to field another vice-presidential candidate. Chadema has now chosen a woman as Mbowe's running mate.
There are eight candidates vying for the presidential position, including another woman, but the clear favourite to win is Jakaya Kikwete of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). Kikwete has served government for 17 years, 10 as Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the United Republic of Tanzania. His main challengers are likely to be Mbowe and Ibrahim Lipumba of Civic United Front (CUF).
There are 13 parties running in the current elections but only the CCM, Chadema and CUF are likely to return members to the 324-seat Bunge, the Union parliament. The previous parliament had 295 members following the 2000 elections. The increase is due a constitutional provision that allows for change of the number of seats. The Bunge has 232 constituency seats. A further 75 special seats representing 30 percent have been allocated to women, awarded on a proportional basis to the number of candidates a party returns. The elected president nominates a further 10 members. The attorney general takes a reserved seat in parliament and one more seat is appointed. Five seats come from the House of Representatives of Zanzibar. In addition, voters will elect 2.552 local wardens (councillors), a third of which are women.
In the meantime, it has also got known that government has suspended the opposition-aligned Kiswahili newspaper "Tanzania Daima" for three days due to publishing a picture deemed offensive to President Benjamin Mkapa. The government claims the photograph and its caption were misleading and intended to belittle, defame and create public disaffection against the president and his government. In addition, the weekly entertainment newspaper, "Amani", has been suspended for 28 days on the grounds of ethical violations. The suspensions of both publications came into effect on December 3rd. With regard to "Amani" newspaper, the government said it had warned the newspaper's management on several occasions over the need to abide by professional ethics. The paper published a story headlined, "Another big shot dies in a guest house", which announced the death of the Chief Economist in the Disaster Management department of the Prime Minister's Office in a lodging in Morogoro while attending a seminar. The paper furthermore allegedly appears to link the death with a certain woman who appeared in a photograph. The government claims the story was injurious to the deceased's family. (Southern African News Features, Harare / Media Institute of Southern Africa, Windhoek)

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