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Mbowe was elected to the National Assembly in 2000 representing Hai Constituency (Kilimanjaro Region). He won 64.5% of the vote, which was the highest percentage of votes won among constituencies with opposition MP's.
In preparation for the 2005 elections, Mbowe was nominated as CHADEMA's presidential candidate. Jumbe Rajab Jumbe, a Zanzibari was chosen as his vice-presidential candidate. The election was originally scheduled for 30 October 2005, but was postponed until 14 December due to the death of Jumbe.
Mbowe criticized the lengthy postponement, saying a week's delay would have sufficed and that his party cannot afford to finance extra campaigning. Chadema eventually settled on Anna Maulidah Komu to be the running mate.
He placed third out of ten candidates in the presidential election of 14 December 2005, winning 5.88% of the vote. Although there are rumours that many of the votes in that election were stolen by the ruling part Chama Cha Mapinduzi (CCM) going to their presidential candidate, Jakaya Kikwete. In, 2010 general elections he was elected a member of the united republic parliament after defeating the incumbent from Mapinduzi, fuyi kimbita taking 51.63% of the vote. Currently, he is the leader of the opposition in parliament after his party the chama cha demokrasia na maendeleo won a significant majority in the opposition camp in parliament.].
- "Masauni saga exposes CCM’s vetting failure", The Citizen (Mwananchi Communications), retrieved 21 May 2010
- Mpinganjira, Ernest (4 December 2005), "Mbowe Rises to Become CCM's Biggest Political Headache", allAfrica.com, retrieved 21 May 2010
- "Zitto — Why I Want to Succeed Mbowe", The Citizen, 26 August 2009, retrieved 21 May 2010
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