Zimbabwe has slid into election mode for the 2023 harmonized elections with two major parties seeking to assert themselves ahead of the polls, which are still more than 18 months away.
The euphoria is set to heighten following an announcement last week by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that it had set up a roadmap for by-elections to fill vacancies in Parliament and local councils.
President Emmerson Mnangagwa will, in terms of the law, proclaim the dates for the by-elections as ZEC’s roadmap is only tentative for planning purposes.
The MDC Alliance, which is led by Nelson Chamisa, has since 2020 been agitating for by-elections following the recalling of most of its legislators and councilors after the courts ruled that they had stood for elections on the rival MDC-T ticket.
The holding of by-elections had been put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chamisa lost narrowly to Mnangagwa in the 2018 presidential elections, while Mnangagwa’s party – ZANU-PF – also garnered a two-thirds majority in the legislative assembly.
Most of the country’s urban local authorities are controlled by the opposition.
Some of the MDC Alliance legislators decided to dump the Chamisa-led party and declared allegiance to the MDC-T, which is now led by Chamisa’s fierce rival Douglas Mwonzora.
Most of those who opted to stand by Chamisa were recalled and now hope to be re-elected to complete their terms.
There are currently 28 legislative and 105 local authority vacancies.
Besides the recalls, some vacancies were caused by the deaths of sitting legislators and councilors.
Mnangagwa and Chamisa have been holding rallies throughout the country but will now have to focus their attention on the by-elections which will set the tone for the 2023 polls.
Mwonzora’s party appears to be more in favor of inclusive dialogue than elections, arguing that there are some reforms that need to be implemented first.
In an earlier post on Twitter, Mwonzora reiterated his party’s position favoring national dialogue.
“Our party has always been consistent that for elections to be a true reflection of the people’s wishes there must be electoral reforms first. We believe that these reforms are attainable through serious dialogue. This is what we are pursuing,” he said.
However, some observers suggest that he is scared of going into the elections because they see him commanding little support compared to Mnangagwa and Chamisa’s.
According to the draft roadmap, ZEC has set April 23, 2023, as the proposed date for elections.
“The commission works with provisional dates as the actual dates can only be proclaimed by the President,” ZEC said in a statement.
It added that the by-elections could be proclaimed earlier or later than the set provisional dates.
“The provisional dates are merely for planning and procurement of election material. The nation should be guided accordingly,” ZEC said.
The establishment of the draft roadmap is the biggest indication yet that the by-elections will finally be conducted. Xinhua