DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Tanzania’s re-elected President Jakaya Kikwete will have to overcome party rifts if he is to push through policies to curb graft after a lacklustre presidential vote last week.
Kikwete won a second term with almost two thirds of the votes cast, although his victory was marred by accusations of rigging and a record low turnout of just 43 percent.
That meant only just over a quarter of Tanzania’s 20 million eligible voters actually cast their ballots for him, in stark contrast to the high voter numbers in 2005 that ushered him to power with a landslide majority.
Political analysts said the electorate had dealt Kikwete a bloody nose for failing to haul corrupt ministers and government officials over the coals and tackle poverty in east Africa’s second largest economy.
His main rival at the ballot box, Willibrod Slaa, campaigned hard on an anti-corruption platform, drawing widespread support from Tanzania’s youth and eating into Kikwete’s support levels in the run-up to the poll.
But some commentators said Kikwete’s hands would now be tied by powerful business players and senior political figures within the party who helped secure his election wins.
“These people who call themselves kingmakers are going to dictate who he appoints in key cabinet positions. Their aim is to control power in the ruling party, hence gain the presidency in the next election,” political analyst Azaveli Lwaitama said.
Lwaitama said the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, in power since Tanzania won its independence in 1961, was already airing its dirty linen in public.
On Sunday, Andrew Chenge, a former cabinet minister who resigned amid graft allegations, accused parliament speaker Samuel Sitta of stoking party divisions.
Chenge quit as infrastructure minister in 2008 following unproven accusations he was involved in the purchase of a radar from Britain’s BAE Systems, a deal which landed the arms-maker a fine from the Serious Fraud Office.
Other major scams include the theft of $131 million from the central bank in 2005/2006 and a $179 million energy contract awarded to a bogus company that led to the resignation of then Prime Minister Edward Lowassa in 2008.
Political commentator Jenerali Ulimwengu said it would be political suicide for Kikwete to keep his back turned on the grand-scale abuse of funds that dogged the first government.
“Issues of corruption will not simply go away seeing as they are crucial to the country’s development and resonate with voters,” Ulimwengu wrote in a weekly column in the East African newspaper after the election.
Failure to tackle graft would hand the opposition a “battering ram” with which to dislodge Kikwete’s ruling CCM party at the next vote in 2015, Ulimwengu said.
The slow pace of reforms during Kikwete’s first term, including measures to combat graft, frustrated donors who slashed their 2010/2011 budget support by almost a quarter of a billion dollars, or one third of their funding.
During Kikwete’s first five years in power, Tanzania plunged 28 places to 116 out of 178 in Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index.
Kikwete said in 2009 that a third of Tanzania’s annual budget was stolen through bribery and corruption, roughly equivalent to the amount donors then contributed in support.
“(The) removal of senior government officials (from cabinet) in his first terms needs to be followed up with successful prosecutions in his second term to demonstrate to politicians that graft will not pay, said Joseph Lake of the Economist Intelligence Unit.
Critics though denounce the government’s anti-graft watchdog, the Prevention and Combating of Corruption Bureau, as toothless and lacking independence.
“It is accountable to the sitting president, hence cannot go after big shots in government,” said Dar es Salaam-based anti- corruption campaigner Ananilea Nkya.
Some regional experts, however, expect Kikwete, who is not allowed to run for a third term, to have a freer rein to push through his agenda, liberated from having to accommodate the different factions within CCM.
“This could include more contentious reforms, including reform of the weak legal system, and a focus on tackling infrastructure bottlenecks,” EIU’s Lake said.
Major foreign companies exploiting Tanzania’s hydrocarbon and mineral resources appear unfazed by Tanzania’s record on corruption.
Ranked Africa’s fourth largest gold producer, Tanzania has generally come second only to oil-exploring Uganda in foreign direct investment inflows within the East African Community since 2005.
“Could foreign investment be higher in Tanzania without corruption? Yes. Will current levels of corruption dampen investors enthusiasm for the country? Probably, but not by a huge amount,” economist Aidan Eyakuze said.
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