Dar es Salaam: Tanzania`s ruling party is selecting its candidate ahead of presidential elections, with the winner expected to take the east African country`s top job after polls in October.
With a weak and fractured opposition, and President Jakaya Kikwete stepping down after completing his second and final term, competition is stiff with 38 candidates vying to secure the party ticket of the ruling Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM), in power since independence in 1964.
Kikwete, the CCM chairman, has said he does not have a "favourite person", but called on party members to vote for a candidate who could stem corruption.
"Pick a person who is a serious, competent and good leader to boost the country`s economic and social development," Kikwete told a rally on Monday.
Front runners include Vice-President Mohamed Bilal, Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda, and former prime minsters, Edward Lowassa and Frederick Sumaye.
Also in the line up are Justice Minister Asha-Rose Migiro, a former UN Deputy Secretary General and ex-foreign minister, as well as current Minster of Foreign Affairs Bernard Membe.
Charles Makongoro Nyerere, son of the east African country`s founding president Julius Nyerere, as well as Ali Karume, the son of the first president of Tanzania`s semi-autonomous Zanzibar archipelago, are also in the race.
Most of the aspirants have pledged to tackle poverty and fight corruption should they win.
"This is the first time in the country`s history when dozens of aspirants are seeking nomination of CCM to run for the top office - it is healthy and shows democratic maturity," said Benson Bana, a political scientist at the University of Dar es Salaam.
But he also called for fair play.
"Aspirants should avoid mudslinging and corrupt practices," Bana said.
Top CCM party officials will this week select three candidates for party members vote on their final choice at a congress on July 12 and 13.
The party will also select its candidate to run for president of Zanzibar, with incumbent Ali Mohamed Shein hoping to secure his second and final five-year term.