Tanzanians poised for tense Sunday poll | Africa | DW | 23.10.2015
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Tanzanians poised for tense Sunday poll

It could be a tough weekend for Tanzania's ruling party. Its candidate for the presidency faces a formidable challenge from a former prime minister. Twelve candidates are vying for the top job. Only one is a woman.

"The ruling party has been in power for 54 years now. Enough is enough. We need a change of leadership," said Janeth Mushi, 32, a businesswoman in the commercial capital Dar es Salaam.

She was referring to Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM). Its outgoing president, Jakaya Kikwete, is stepping down after having served a maximum of two five-year terms. The new CCM candidate is Works Minister John Magufuli.

Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa leads the opposition's bid. He has drawn thousands to rallies, as the main opposition parties have united behind one candidate for the first time.

Yet, while both candidates promise a new start, neither represents a real break from the past. Lowassa only quit the CCM in July, when the party snubbed him as their candidate. Magufuli's political career has been with CCM.

Anna Mghwira, ACT presidentiall candidate in Tansania

Anna Mghwira: no stranger to politics

Anna Elisha Mghwira would like to see a real break; a new dawn in Tanzanian politics. She is the chairperson of the country's youngest opposition party, the Alliance for Change and Transparency Wazalendo (ACT), and is the only woman running for the presidency.

Politics in the family

Politics is nothing new to Mghwira. She was born into a family of politicians. Her father was a councillor and a leader in the Tanganyika African National Union (TANU), the precursor of the CCM. She started her political carrier as a member of the TANU Youth League.

TANU and the Afro Shirazi (ASP) Party - the only parties operating in mainland Tanzania and in the semi-autonomous islands of Zanzibar - were merged in 1977 to form the CCM. Mghwira's interest in politics dwindled. But she rediscovered it in 2009 and joined Chadema, one of the biggest opposition parties on the Tanzanian mainland.

She held two important positions in the party: chairperson of the women's council at a district level and secretary of the council at a regional level.

She told DW, "The issue of not having women leaders in the past is a culture that we have created for ourselves." Politics was about "helping a country to think and raise issues that can really improve our economy and bring change," she said.

Tansania Wahlen Kombo John Pombe Magufuli und Edward Lowassa

Sunday's poll is expected to be a tight race between John Magufuli and Edward Lowassa.

In 2012, while still a member of the Chadema party, she tried unsuccessfully to run as the Chadema candidate for Arumeru East constituency.

In March 2015 she joined the newly created ACT. She was appointed the party's national chairperson during their first general assembly and shortly thereafter was elected their presidential candidate.

Mghwira is the first and only woman to lead a political party in the history of Tanzania. Being a woman, she believes, makes her more credible to the voters. Male leaders have in the past 50 years succeeded in building a negative image for themselves. "Politics does not necessarily have to be dirty," she said.

A mother of three and a lawyer by training, who studied in Dar es Salaam and in the UK, Anna Elisha Mghwira has already made history as the first woman to lead a Tanzanian political party and the first to run for the presidency. Her performance in this election may indicate what the future holds.

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