The politics of succession within CCM

State House of Tanzania

State House of Tanzania

In commemorating 38 years of its existence, CCM’s Chairperson, President Kikwete used the occasion to touch on the subject of succession politics. He said that the party has many capable hands to replace him, and that there are those who have not come forward, they are known they should be convinced to run for the presidency to save the country and the party.

More than any time in its 38 years, CCM is forced to face its internal demons, to prevent a party splitting.

Many names have been said to be in the not so quite race to succeed President Kikwete come October when his time is up. There are those who have explicitly expressed their political ambitions to stay at Magogoni.

To many this year will be a make or break for CCM. Owing to its political infighting, bitter factionalism, and allegations of corruption among office seekers, it is seen like a party that will fall apart at the seams. However, being a party that has a long history of playing hide and seek with voters, and infamous for its cloak and dagger politics, regardless of how the party chooses, there are those who will be left in shock.

I’ll hazard a few guesses. I mean that is the best anyone can do, for now; guess.

There is a Zanzibar option. Here the party might pick a candidate from Zanzibar, to avoid the bitter feuds among factions. Under this option, the party can go for Zanzibar President Dr Shein, or former Prime Minister, Dr Salim Ahmed Salim. Dr Shein can be “swapped” with Dr Bilali, the Union Vice President. In the previous general election, CCM “swapped” President Shein for the Zanzibar presidency as a crisis management choice, as factionalism was poisoning the party there and ruining its chances of a victory during the election. Dr Shein had another attribute to him. He hails from Pemba, and the main opposition candidate in the Isles hails from Pemba too. Zanzibar had never been ruled by anyone from Pemba since the 1964 Revolutions.

Dr Shein’s pick was sheer, cold realpolitik.  It split the votes from Pemba, an opposition stronghold.

On the other hand, Dr Bilali’s choice for a Vice President candidate was a masterstroke. It removed a powerful figure in Zanzibar politics and “dumped” him in the vast land of the Union government. Now, he can be allowed to go back in the Isles, given his age, he might turn out to be a one-termer there and choose to retire like Mandela did back in 1999.

But now, President Kikwete is retiring, and the next person in charge might prefer a clean slate, to break with the past as it were to avoid being seen as a continuation of a the immediate previous regime.

Any choice between President Shein, or Dr Salim is bound to be a one-termer, a “transitional” choice of a sort, when the party catches its breath for the next round. The two men are way past their prime.

There is the gender option as well. This will quite a shocker and it will test our very deep seated stereotypes and perceptions. It will bring to fore the issue of women and their role in society. This option will completely sideline the factions and catch them off guard as it did when it was deployed for the chair of the Speaker of the National Assembly.

This option has its advantages like the fact the largest number of voters in the country are women, but then again, it is not a foregone conclusion that women will just vote for another woman. That will be insulting to their intelligence. CCM will tout itself as a groundbreaking party for that bold move.

However, be that as it may, on the flip side is the question of how picking a woman to run for the president might seat with the voters many of whom reside in the countryside, are conservative and still hold dear to some traditions which disadvantage women. Here the name that was whispered some few years ago is of a soft spoken, humble and spotlight-averse academician turned politician, Dr Asha-Rose Migiro.

Both options have to factor in the opposition.

Given the unpredictability, intrigues, and behind the scenes maneuvers within CCM, few won’t enjoy what comes next.

By Erick Mwakibete

Mwakibete is a contributor of WeWrite and he can be reached through:

One Comment

  1. Sospeter Langiboli says:

    CCM should accept challenges brought by externalities so as to cope with them and adjust positive.Failure to so and using the power of the state you are inviting political chaos in our country.Things are changing

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