By Ahmed Rajab
BBC Focus On Africa magazine
Tanzania stands out as a stable democracy in a region that has witnessed some of the most vicious civil conflicts in Africa - but it could be said that 15 years after the introduction of multi-party politics, ruling party Chama cha Mapinduzi (CCM) still behaves as if the country were a one-party state.
Jakaya Kikwete looks set to secure the presidency
Political pluralism is not embedded within the CCM, and the manoeuvres of the party
hierarchy in the build-up to the nomination of Jakaya Kikwete as its presidential
candidate are a clear example of this.
The CCM's central committee eliminated vice-chairman John Malecela from the presidential race during the early stages of the nomination process, smoothing the way for Kikwete to secure the presidency.
Under the outgoing President Benjamin Mkapa and his predecessor, Ali Hassan Mwinyi, Tanzania lost much of the vibrancy that distinguished it under its founding president, the late Julius Nyerere.
He may have fancied himself as a philosopher-king, but it was Nyerere who detribalised the nation's politics and adopted Kiswahili as the country's official language and, in so doing, forged a sense of national unity among Tanzanians.
Nyerere set an example when he voluntarily gave up power in 1985, a novelty under a one-party system, and ensured a smooth transition when Mwinyi succeeded him.
It is a tradition that has since been followed by Mwinyi and Mkapa, in contrast to neighbouring Uganda, where President Yoweri Museveni has changed the constitution to give himself the option of hanging on to power.
It was also Nyerere who dragged the two parts of the United Republic of Tanzania, mainland Tanganyika and the islands of Zanzibar, into a marriage of convenience.
Zanzibar has suffered from economic mismanagement
And herein lies the chink in Tanzania's political armour - the problem
that continues to blight its reputation, 41 years since the founding of
Africa's only surviving union of states.
In a way, Zanzibar is an enigma; a double-edged sword that threatens the well-being of the union as much as it threatens its own existence.
Zanzibaris may be easy-going, almost lackadaisical in their manner, but throughout history they have resorted to violence to settle political scores.
And while the union government may call the shots in Zanzibar, which has a population of about one million, it is also constrained by its lack of moral authority to exert its considerable powers for fear that any open ruction between itself and the isles' authorities might undo the union.
Tanzania remains one of the world's poorest countries but is touted as a success story in the making - Africa's so called sleeping giant.
But the political relationship between the mainland and the isles is the fly in the ointment. It has been a headache for union presidents from Nyerere onwards, and is certain to remain so.
It is unlikely that Kikwete, as Tanzania's new president, will adopt a different attitude to Zanzibar from that of his predecessors, constrained as he will be by entrenched interests.
Despite the public posturing of CCM leaders on the archipelago, one factor that unites Zanzibaris of all political hues is their sense of separateness.
Their detractors may deride them for what they see as their small-island mentality, but there is no denying that the islanders feel that they have been swallowed by their big brother from across the waters.
Since the inception of the union in 1964, they have seen their sovereignty eroded
to the extent that Zanzibar's status has, in effect, been reduced to that of a province.
Many Zanzibaris complain that the union is one of unequal partners, and that the isles are being short-changed in matters of sharing the nation's resources.
When the archipelago's second president, Sheikh Aboud Jumbe, tried to raise the issue in the early 1980s, he was effectively ousted from power by Nyerere.
It was also Nyerere who buried the so-called G-55 - a group of 55 mainland MPs who put forward a demand for the creation of a three-tier government for Tanzania: one
for the mainland in addition to the existing union and Zanzibari administrations.
Some Tanzanians feel Zanzibar has too much influence
But equally there are many on the mainland who resent the current arrangement.
Their main complaint is that for its small size and population, Zanzibar is overrepresented in the union's parliament and government.
They also argue that Zanzibar, with its mismanaged economy, Byzantine politics and poor human rights record, is a burden to the mainland.
Separatist tendencies do exist, both on the isles and on the mainland.
But those who advocate a complete rupture of the union are in a minority. The majority would prefer a re-arrangement of the union structures.
The only panacea is to revisit the union's constitution under some form of a national conference.