By Chris Thompson
Zimbabwe’s electoral commission has said no opposition candidate was allowed to contest the Saturday Parliamentary by-election because of a ban.
The commission posted on X (formerly Twitter) on Saturday that: “Polling stations opened at 07:00 (05:00 GMT) in areas where by-elections are being held, and voters are already queuing up to cast their ballots.”
According to Africanees, the southern African country held general elections in August. The ballot, the fairness of which has been questioned, gave 81-year-old President Emmerson Mnangagwa a second term in office, as well as 177 of the 280 seats in parliament to his Zanu-PF party.
But two months after the election, 14 MPs from the leading opposition party, the Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC), were dismissed in a bizarre ploy.
In October, a certain Sengezo Tshabangu, claiming to be the CCC’s “acting secretary general” but described as an “impostor” by the opposition party, informed the Speaker of Parliament that the MPs in question, having left the party, could not keep their seats.
The Speaker of Parliament, a member of Zanu-PF, declared the vacancies to the Electoral Commission, paving the way for by-elections in 9 constituencies on Saturday, with the remainder of the seats allocated under the proportional representation system.
On Thursday and Friday, the courts ordered that the CCC’s 9 candidates in the by-election be barred from standing. The opposition party appealed against this decision, but this did not prevent polling stations from opening on Saturday.
Znu-PF needs just 10 seats to win a two-thirds majority and be free to revise the country’s laws.
According to observers, these unopposed by-elections are the first step in the government’s bid to win a two-thirds majority in Parliament. The aim is to amend the Constitution, which would allow Mnangagwa to extend his reign by abolishing the two-term presidential limit.