That is the Arumeru East parliamentary by-election, which took place yesterday after weeks of intensive campaigns that were full of drama and excitement.
And if police reports are to be taken seriously in a politically-charged atmosphere like that, a number of violence incidents were also reported.
Simple political analysis, an assessment of the entire campaign conduct and a bit of conventional wisdom will point to a CCM or Chadema victory – in that order. The two political parties put up their best and when it was all over, left it upon the voters to decide. The former fielded Mr Sioi Sumari while the latter fielded Mr Joshua Nassari.
The by-election also attracted a host of other parties, which analysts haven’t given any chance other than wearing the ‘we also participated’ tag’. They are Tanzania Labour Party -TLP (Mr Abraham Chipaka), Democratic Party – DP (Mr Mohammed Mohammedy), the United People’s Democratic Party - UPDP (Mr Charles Msuya) and ‘Sauti ya Umma’- SAU (Mr Shabani Kirita).
A total of 327 voting stations have been earmarked in the 17 wards of Meru District, under which the Arumeru-East constituency lies. The district has three main divisions of Poli, King’ori and Mbuguni. It was CCM and Chadema only that conducted political rallies, while the other four parties chose to ride around in vehicles asking people to vote for them through loudspeakers.
Both Chadema and CCM claimed to have conducted more than 100 rallies covering 86 villages in Meru District, between March 10 and March 31. The by-election lived up to expectations as an exciting one given the fact that it was being held in a territory where both parties command a wide following.
Photos of the campaign rallies were ample testimony to this. One of the candidates was photographed addressing only a handful of ‘supporters’, mostly children! Like in any election, there is bound to be the winner and the loser. It is all part of the democracy game, in which both contestants are expected to gracefully accept the result. And in case of any electoral grievance, the law courts are open for petitions (if and when) necessary.
The seat was left vacant following the death of the former holder, the late Jeremiah Sumari. His son, Sioi, probably decided to take over where his father left by vying for the seat. Both parties have attached great importance to these by-elections. They dispatched their top creams and other political heavyweights to put weight to their campaigns.
The campaigns were also stylish as some of the parties, notably CCM and Chadema added some ‘spice’ to them. Chadema, like in previous elections used a helicopter to ferry its candidates, while CCM sent popular music and dance groups, including Tanzania One Theatre (TOT) of the Khadija Kopa fame to add gaiety at their rallies.
CCM also sent its former national chairman, who is also retired Union President, Mr Benjamin Mkapa, its Publicity and Propaganda Secretary Nnape Nnauye, former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa and Minister of State in the President’s Office Stephen Wassira to add weight to their campaign. Mr Mkapa launched his party’s campaigns.
They also picked one of its youthful and dynamic MPs, Mr Mwigulu Nchemba, as Sioi’s campaign manager. Chadema were not to be outdone as they dispatched several top party leaders, including its national chairman, Mr Freeman Mbowe. Already some scholars and political analysts have begun theorizing on the nature and scenario of the forthcoming general elections in 2015, judging from the conduct of the Arumeru by-elections.
One of the major lessons we have learnt from these by-elections is that only a few parties remain stronger in the country’s political battleground. For the northern zone, it seems it is only CCM and Chadema which still call the shots. Other heavyweights, CUF and NCCR-Mageuzi did not take part in these polls.
Most other parties performed poorly in the countdown to the by-elections, which points out the need for their leaders to pull up their socks if they truly aspire to faring better in the next general elections. If attendance to their rallies is anything to go by, then it would seem impossible for them to make any headway in the country’s political scene even if they would form an alliance or decide to merge.
These by-elections showed that most other political parties than CCM, Chadema, CUF and NCCR-Mageuzi are still weaker and would have to really ‘run’ if they are to make any positive impact in future. Short of that, they would better be advised to close shop and join and support other ‘big’ parties of their choice.