DAR ES SALAAM, May 31 (Reuters) - Former Tanzanian prime minister Edward Lowassa, seen as frontrunner to become the East African nation’s next leader, has launched his campaign for the ruling party’s presidential nomination.
The Chama Cha Mapinduzi party has ruled since independence in 1961 and the fractious opposition is not expected to challenge its position in a parliamentary and presidential vote on Oct. 25.
“I have decided to run for president to tackle poverty,” Lowassa told hundreds of supporters at a stadium in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha on Saturday.
President Jakaya Kikwete has overseen rapid economic growth averaging 7 percent over the past decade in Tanzania, but his administration has been criticised for failing to deliver on promises of tackling poverty.
Lowassa said his top priorities would include overhauling the country’s education sector, reducing poverty, boosting economic growth and fighting corruption.
“We will use the country’s natural resources, including natural gas, to develop our nation... we cannot build a modern economy without curbing corruption,” he said.
Businesses have long complained corruption is one of the main reasons for the high cost of doing business in Tanzania.
Tanzania is estimated to have more than 53.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves off its southern coast, but its energy sector has long been dogged by allegations of graft and other problems.
Lowassa, 61, who backed Kikwete in 2005, is seen as a divisive figure in the ruling party after resigning in 2008 over corruption allegations in the energy sector, charges he denied. But he is widely seen as a strong contender.
He faces a stiff challenge from rivals in the ruling party for the presidential nomination, including Makongoro Nyerere, son of Tanzania’s founding president Julius Nyerere, who has announced he will launch his bid on June 1.
Whoever wins the ruling party nomination is all but assured of taking office after Kikwete, who stands down this year after serving the maximum two terms.
Analysts said the opposition would struggle to mount a credible challenge despite plans to field a single presidential candidate.
While ruled by a single party for more than half a century, Tanzania has seen peaceful transitions to different presidents since multi-party politics returned in 1995. (Reporting by Fumbuka Ng’wanakilala)