What Could Go Wrong?
After 15 years of relative stability in Tanzania, observers are optimistic that the chances of serious electoral unrest this year are low. A recent poll shows 75 percent of voters back incumbent President Jakaya Kikwete, who won re-election in 2005 with 80 percent of the vote.
Kikwete remains popular despite his casual attitude towards fighting graft: Tanzania is one of the more corrupt countries in Africa, ranking 126th in Transparency International's Corruption Perceptions index -- only slightly ahead of Nigeria. Still, the power of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) may be waning.
"CCM is popular, yes, but its popularity has dwindled a bit over the years," said Moses Kaluba, executive secretary of Participation Agenda 2000, a group focused on civic education. Despite the poll numbers, a depressed economy and high inflation could be a drag on Kikwete, Kaluba added.
In parliament, the CCM is unlikely to lose its large majority, but it could see opposition parties like Chama cha Demokrasia na Maendeleo (CHADEMA) and Civic United Front (CUF) gain seats.
"Most of the [corruption] scandals that are topics of conversation today were actually [from investigations] spearheaded by opposition members of parliament," said John Ulanga, executive director of the Foundation for Civil Society. "So [opposition parties] may use that to gather public support."
The most intense electoral competition in Tanzania is on the semi-autonomous island of Zanzibar, with a population of 1 million people. Only in Zanzibar does the opposition CUF offer any real danger to the CCM. Close elections there in 2000 led to violent clashes with police in which more than 30 protesters were killed.
In the wake of disputed elections in 2005, a power-sharing agreement was struck between the CCM and the CUF that was largely unimplemented, but a recent agreement to form a unity government between both parties after this year's elections has significantly lowered tensions.
Why It Matters
Unrest in Zanzibar -- or the mainland -- could tarnish Tanzania's image as a safe place to visit, which is vital for the country's booming tourism industry.
This also applies to foreign investment, particularly in the nascent uranium and oil industries, and international development aid. Tanzania is one of the largest recipients of Millennium Challenge Corporation funds, a compact worth $700 million. The MCC is already having difficulty spending its money, and its progress would be damaged if Tanzania took a step backwards.
The religious and civil unrest in zanzibar, what does it mean for the peace and stabilty of EAC