Tanzania presidential election: Who are the main candidates? | Tanzania

Mainland Tanzania and semi-autonomous Zanzibar will hold elections for presidents, lawmakers and local officials on Wednesday.

Incumbent President John Magufuli is seeking re-election in the mainland from a crowded field of 15 candidates. He is the candidate of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has ruled Tanzania – together with its predecessor, the party of the African National Union of Tanzania (TANU) – since its independence in 1961.

More than 29 million people have registered to vote. Polling stations are scheduled to open at 7 a.m. (04:00 GMT) and close at 4 p.m. (01:00 GMT).

In the run-up to the elections, opposition parties complained of threats and repression when the electoral commission disqualified dozens of opposition candidates, while right-wing groups accused the government of restricting freedom of expression and freedom of the press. The government has previously denied such allegations.

The vote is also taking place in the semi-autonomous archipelago of the Indian Ocean in Zanzibar, which has carried out controversial polls and post-election violence in the past.

Who are the main candidates?

The favorite: John Magufuli

The 60-year-old Magufuli is aiming for a second and final term of five years. While opinion polls have been banned, making it difficult to predict the outcome, many analysts see Magufuli as having a great chance of winning re-election.

Magufuli, a former public works minister dubbed “The Bulldozer” by his supporters for his no-nonsense approach and ability to get things done, has pledged to continue the fight against corruption and wasteful spending of public money. During the campaign, he also touted his government’s record for improving the country’s infrastructure.

During his presidency, Magufuli spent much of his time traveling around Tanzania and meeting citizens. He has even gained a reputation for resolving local voter grievances during the tour, and frequently issued orders to local government officials that were given live on camera at roadside meetings and greetings.

However, critics accuse him of narrowing the democratic space and suppressing dissent since his 2015 election victory, including by preventing opposition parties from holding most public gatherings.

The president has also attracted international attention for declaring the country coronavirus-free of nearly 60 million people. Prayers would have helped eliminate COVID-19. The government has not released any coronavirus numbers since April.

Coverage of Wednesday’s elections will be curtailed after the government changed the law to require international radio and television broadcasters to have licensed local partners in order to get regulator permission to broadcast content, Amnesty International said.

Magufuli was born in the Chato district on the shores of Lake Victoria, where he was elected to parliament in 1995 to represent the region. As the father of five children, he is a devout Catholic who often sings in church choirs.

The main opponent: Dundu Lissu

As a staunch critic of Magufuli, Tundu Lissu is the candidate for the main opposition party Chadema.

The 52-year-old’s hopes of causing a stir have been heightened after his recent support from the leaders of the ACT Wazalendo party in a so-called “loose” coalition between the country’s two leading opposition parties.

In 2017, Lissu survived an attack in the administrative capital Dodoma when he was shot 16 times by unknown assailants. He spent nearly three years in exile, first in neighboring Kenya and then in Belgium, where he underwent more than a dozen operations.

A trained lawyer and fan of reggae music, Lissu entered politics in 2010 and won a seat in parliament to represent his home region of Singida East. Over the years he developed a reputation as a fierce government critic and became the chief whip of Chadema.

Earlier this month, Lissu told Al Jazeera that the opposition “will not accept stolen elections”.

“We will call millions of our people into the streets who will take democratic and peaceful mass action to defend the integrity of the elections and defend their vote – when it comes down to it,” he said.

Other challengers to the President are former Foreign Minister Bernard Membe and the politician-turned economist Ibrahim Lipumba.

Zanzibar hopefuls

Zanzibar, where around 566,000 people have registered to take part in the polls, completed its election campaign on Sunday.

The archipelago has been ruled by the CCM since it merged with what was then Tanganyika in 1964 to create Tanzania.

President Ali Mohamed Shein resigns after two terms. Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi, son of former Tanzanian President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, is the ruling party’s candidate.

He will face opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad, who is trying to take office for the sixth time after the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1995. Hamad claims that his voice was stolen.

As part of the informal cooperation of the main opposition parties, Chadema chairman Freeman Mbowe said earlier this month that his party would withdraw its presidential candidate in Zanzibar and Hamad from ACT-Wazalendo, which seeks a new constitution that will give the archipelago “a full autonomy “.

Zanzibar has a history of tense elections and violence. On Sunday, ACT-Wazalendo’s campaign manager said he had been seized and threatened by armed men while a parliamentary candidate was missing.