Mainland Tanzania and the semi-autonomous Zanzibar are due to hold elections for president, legislators and local officials on Wednesday.
Incumbent President John Magufuli is seeking re-election on the mainland among a crowded field of 15 contenders. He is the candidate of the Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) party, which has uninterruptedly governed Tanzania – along with its predecessor, the Tanzania African National Union party (TANU) – since independence in 1961.
More than 29 million people have registered to cast their ballots. Polling stations are due to open at 7am (04:00 GMT) and close at 4pm (01:00 GMT).
The favourite: John Magufuli
President John Magufuli (60) is seeking a second and final five-year term in office. While opinion polls have been banned, making it difficult to predict the outcome, many analysts see Magufuli as having strong chances of winning re-election.
A former Minister of Public Works nicknamed “The Bulldozer” by his supporters for his no-nonsense approach and his ability to get things done, President Magufuli has pledged to continue the fight against corruption and wasteful spending of public money. On the campaign trail, he has also touted his government’s record on improving the country’s infrastructure.
Throughout his presidency, President Magufuli has spent much of his time touring Tanzania and meeting citizens. He has even gained something of a reputation for resolving voters’ grievances on the spot while on tour, often issuing orders to local government representatives live on camera at roadside meet and greets.
Critics, however, accuse him of narrowing democratic space and stifling dissent since his election win in 2015, including by barring opposition parties from holding most public gatherings.
The president has also drawn international attention for declaring the country of almost 60 million people coronavirus-free, saying prayers had helped eliminate COVID-19. The government has not released any coronavirus figures since April.
President Magufuli was born in Chato District on the shores of Lake Victoria, where in 1995 he was elected to parliament to represent the area. A father of five, he is a devout Catholic who often sings in church choirs.
The main challenger: Tundu Lissu
A staunch critic of President Magufuli, Mr Tundu Lissu is the candidate for the main opposition party Chadema.
The 52-year-old’s hopes of causing an upset were boosted after his recent endorsement by leaders of the ACT-Wazalendo party, in what has been dubbed as a “loose” coalition between the country’s two leading opposition parties.
In 2017, Mr Lissu survived an assassination attempt in the administrative capital, Dodoma, when he was shot 16 times by unknown attackers. He spent nearly three years in exile, first in neighbouring Kenya and then Belgium, where he underwent more than a dozen surgeries.
A lawyer by training and a fan of reggae music, Mr Lissu entered politics in 2010, winning a parliamentary seat to represent his home region of Singida East. Over the years, he developed a strong reputation as a fierce government c ritic and became the chief whip of Chadema.
Other presidential challengers include former Foreign Minister Bernard Membe and economist-turned-politician Ibrahim Lipumba.
Zanzibar, where some 566,000 people have registered to take part in the polls, wrapped up its election campaigns on Sunday.
The archipelago has been governed by the CCM since it joined with then-Tanganyika to form Tanzania in 1964.
President Ali Mohamed Shein is stepping down after serving two terms in office. Hussein Ali Hassan Mwinyi, son of former Tanzanian President Ali Hassan Mwinyi, is the candidate of the governing party.
He will face opposition leader Seif Sharif Hamad, who is attempting for the sixth time to take office following the introduction of multiparty democracy in 1995. Hamad alleges that every vote was stolen from him.
As part of the main opposition parties’ informal collaboration, Chadema chair Freeman Mbowe said earlier this month that his party would withdraw its presidential candidate in Zanzibar and back Hamad, of ACT-Wazalendo, which seeks a new constitution that would grant the archipelago “a full autonomy”. – Al Jazeera