TANZANIA: Opposition Leader Steps Down

Two senior leaders of Tanzania's new opposition coalition have resigned over the nomination of a former ruling party official as presidential candidate, exposing fractures in the fragile coalition ahead of an October poll.

In a move meant to cut the ruling party's 54-year grip on power, Tanzania's four major opposition parties on Tuesday named former prime minister Edward Lowassa - once seen as a leading contender for the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party nomination - as their candidate.

Some analysts see a shrewd move to win over disenchanted supporters of CCM and break the lock on power it has enjoyed for decades. But senior members of the opposition coalition have expressed disgust and stepped down.

Ibrahim Lipumba, chair of the Civic United Front (CUF), Tanzania's second-biggest opposition party, announced his resignation on Thursday in protest against Lowassa's candidacy.

He follows in the footsteps of the secretary general of the main opposition CHADEMA party, Wilibrod Slaa, who resigned earlier this week on similar grounds, accusing his party of abandoning its principles.

"It goes against my conscience to welcome such leaders into our coalition," Lipumba told a news conference.

Several senior CCM members have defected to the opposition.

Weaken opposition

Lowassa quit as premier in 2008 over corruption allegations that he denies.

CHADEMA previously named Lowassa in its 'List of Shame' of government leaders tainted with graft accusations, but has now rallied behind the ex-PM saying the allegations against him were never proven.

Lipumba and Slaa, who were presidential candidates in the 2010 polls, said they would remain ordinary members of their respective political parties, but would not campaign for Lowassa in the general election.

Lowassa, 61, was appointed unopposed as the opposition coalition's presidential candidate and would be the main challenger to the ruling party's presidential candidate, John Magufuli.

Analysts said the resignations of the two leading figures could potentially weaken the opposition ahead of the October 25 presidential and parliamentary elections.

"The resignations  indicate that the opposition coalition is still divided and it might struggle to defeat the ruling party," Benson Bana, a Tanzanian political analyst told Reuters.

"Their absence from the campaigns could cost the opposition coalition a lot of votes in key constituencies."
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