October 27, 2014 / 4:08 PM / 4 years ago

Tanzania opposition sign unity deal ahead of 2015 elections

DAR ES SALAAM (Reuters) - Four main opposition parties in Tanzania have agreed to work together in key 2015 elections to try to end 50 years of dominance by the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, officials said on Monday.

The four parties said in a statement they had decided to “field joint candidates at all levels of elections” in east Africa’s second biggest economy, including in a parliamentary ballot and a presidential vote.

The leaders of the main opposition Chadema party, the Civic United Front (CUF), NCCR-Mageuzi and the National League for Democracy (NLD) signed their cooperation pact at a public rally in Tanzania’s commercial capital Dar es Salaam on Sunday.

They did not name their presidential hopeful, but parties are widely expected to nominate their candidates in May for elections that are likely to be held in October 2015.

    The opposition bloc also agreed to cooperate in a ‘No’ campaign for a referendum on a draft constitution scheduled for April 2015.

    The new charter is meant to replace one passed in 1977 when the country was under one-party rule. It was approved by a CCM-dominated assembly on Oct. 2, but the opposition boycotted the vote, saying their reform proposals had been largely ignored.

   Although CCM has won all four elections since 1995, when an era of one-party rule ended, the opposition has made ground in recent votes.

    However, Tanzanian political analyst Benson Bana said it remained to be seen if opposition groups can truly unite, given their history of mutual suspicions and in-fighting.

    “Opposition parties will likely increase their share of the vote if they unite, but they are unlikely to threaten CCM’s dominance unless they completely dissolve their parties and united to form a new political party. But I don’t see this happening,” he told Reuters.

    “On the other hand, CCM itself faces a big test ... The ongoing power struggle over the presidential succession race is threatening to weaken the ruling party.”

    Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete cannot stand again next year after serving a maximum two terms and CCM has yet to pick a new candidate.

Reporting by Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala; Editing by George Obulutsa and Crispian Balmer

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