DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania, Oct 29 – Tanzania’s new leader John Pombe Magufuli rose from humble beginnings to win the presidency of east Africa’s most populous nation in the country’s hardest ever fought elections.
The win, on his birthday, by the 56-year old former chemistry teacher cements the long-running Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party’s firm grip on power, ruling Tanzania since 1977 when two independence-era parties merged.
The elections, held on Sunday, were the hardest fought electoral race in the east African nation’s history, with the opposition providing the first credible challenge to the CCM since the introduction of multi-party democracy in 1995.
But while the CCM will celebrate Magufuli’s win, it came at the cost of several veteran CCM ministers and politicians, ousted from their parliamentary seats.
Magufuli won 58 percent of votes – a total of 8.9 million – compared to his closest rival Edward Lowassa, a former prime minister and CCM stalwart turned opposition chief who won 40 percent.
Magufuli’s running mate Samia Suluhu Hassan, will become the first female vice president of Tanzania.
The opposition rejected the result, claiming victory itself, while the Zanzibar archipelago annulled polls over irregularities.
Minister of works in the last government – for which he earned the nickname “The Bulldozer” – Magufuli was not initially seen as a frontrunner, but won the CCM nomination from a field of nearly 40 other candidates.
He succeeds President Jakaya Kikwete, who stepped down from power having served his constitutional two-term limit.