Election Season

I’m back in the United States now, getting ready to start the fall semester in a few short days, but while I was in Tanzania, I saw buses for the major political parties going down the roads, even in rural areas. The campaign is underway.

This October, Tanzanians will go to the polls to elect a new parliament and a new president. The current president, Jakaya Kikwete, is not eligible to run due to term limits. For the first time in the nation’s history, there is a chance that the “Party of the Revolution,” Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), will be overthrown. The opposition parties have formed a coalition led by the Chadema party.

There has certainly been no shortage of drama so far. Former Prime Minister Edward Lowassa, who was presumed to be the frontrunner for CCM, was not selected as the presidential nominee. When CCM backed John Magufuli’s presidential bid instead, Mr. Lowassa decided to join the opposition. (Side note: two women candidates came very close to being the CCM nominee, but were ultimately not selected.) A week or two later, Chadema officially selected Lowassa as their nominee.

As part of the preparation for our experiment, Catie led the effort to research women’s issues in the upcoming election. We also met with some experts at the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam to learn more. I’ll just share a few highlights here.

One of the major political issues facing Tanzania right now is Constitutional reform. President Kikwete promised to have a new draft of the Constitution finalized and brought to a vote by now, but it’s not looking like that task will be completed before the election. Reforming to the quota system (such as raising the quota of women’s representation in parliament to 50%) and strengthening women’s legal rights to own property (which are currently undermined by customary law) are chief among the issues.

Women currently comprise a little over one third of parliament and are guaranteed one third of the seats in district governments, as well. Special seats are set aside for women under the quota system, but increasingly, competitive female candidates are winning “open” seats.


  1. tctreakle says:

    It’s good to hear that women’s rights are really starting to take off world-wide, especially in less developed countries such as Tanzania. I wonder if, as this feminism spark in Tanzania will lead to countries nearby with less pronounced feminism to start to make some political noise as well.