Poll rivals promise to clean up Tanzania

Taste of democracy: An East African nation has high hopes of reforming a system in which corruption is at epidemic levels
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The Independent Online

Dar es Salaam

In East Africa's largest country tomorrow they will try to achieve what could not be accomplished last Sunday on two small islands off the coast: elections untainted by allegations of fraud and vote-rigging.

The presidential and parliamentary polls in Tanzania are the first multi- party elections since independence from Britain in 1961. They have been blighted by reports of irregularities during last weekend's elections in Zanzibar, which retained the right to elect its own parliament and president when it united with the mainland in 1964.

Victory in Zanzibar is expected to give the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (Party of the Revolution - CCM) a boost in tomorrow's national poll, in which its main rival is the National Convention for Construction and Reform (NCCR). Both parties are campaigning on the issue of corruption, which is at epidemic levels. Both presidential candidates have promised to banish this scourge.

The CCM's Benjamin Mkapa, a protege of Tanzania's founding father, Julius Nyerere, is claimed to have clean hands, though the image of his party is far from unsullied. Since Mr Nyerere handed the presidency over to Ali Hassan Mwinyi in 1985, the CCM has become increasingly associated with corruption, which Mr Mkapa has pledged to eradicate. He wants to break with the regime of Mr Mwinyi, who is barred from standing for a third term. "The last five years have been ones of unchecked corruption in high places," said Jenerali Ulimwenu, MP and chairman of the Dimba newspaper group.

The NCCR's candidate, Augustin Mrema, is a former CCM minister sacked for speaking out against the embezzlement of public funds. He is also being touted as a man dedicated to cleaning up Tanzanian politics. So serious has corruption become that international donors are withholding funding until they are satisfied that steps are being taken to eradicate it - Britain has suspended pounds 8.5m. "This went right up to the level of ministers taking bribes for not enforcing the tax laws," said a Western diplomatic source.

While Mr Mkapa is considered to be committed to reform, he is likely to encounter fierce resistance in his own. His rival, Mr Mrema, has based his campaign on the corruption issue.

The greatest challenge for the victor will be in devising accountable politics. While the politicians might all be "Nyerere's men", they will have to be much more if they are to satisfy the demands of Tanzanians.