Opposition Parties Boycott By-Elections, Advocating for Electoral Reforms
In a move that has shifted the focus of the upcoming by-elections, fringe opposition parties have decided to abstain from participating, citing a skewed electoral playing field that favours the ruling party. As a result, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) and ZANU-PF will be the main contenders vying for the vacant National Assembly seats, leaving the field open for a head-to-head battle between the two political forces.
The by-elections were triggered by the controversial decision of the self-appointed CCC secretary general Sengezo Tshabangu, who recently recalled 15 legislators. This unexpected turn of events has thrust the country into yet another electoral contest, which will take place in Harare, Bulawayo, and Matabeleland.
While the ruling party and CCC prepare to lock horns, the Douglas Mwonzora-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), has declared its decision to boycott the by-elections. The MDC argues that little has changed since the contested August plebiscite, which was marred by allegations of vote rigging and suppression. The party’s eleventh-hour withdrawal from the August elections highlighted their concerns regarding the integrity of the electoral process.
“We have carefully assessed the current electoral conditions, and regrettably, we find that these conditions have not improved since the August 2023 plebiscite. We had previously stated that the August election was marred by what we believe to be the biggest electoral fraud in the history of our great nation. Unfortunately, the issues that plagued that election remain unaddressed, and the electoral landscape remains fraught with challenges,” expressed the MDC in a statement.
The opposition party emphasizes that true democracy encompasses more than just casting votes; it necessitates fairness, transparency, and integrity in the electoral process. The MDC laments the persistent lack of electoral reforms and the absence of safeguards to ensure the integrity of Zimbabwe’s electoral system. Consequently, they have chosen to redirect their energy and resources towards pursuing justice and advocating for comprehensive electoral reforms.
Currently, the MDC is actively involved in a delimitation court case and will continue to champion the cause for electoral reforms that address the deep-rooted issues affecting the nation’s electoral system.
While the MDC takes a stand against participating in the by-elections, the CCC, initially aligned with the boycott, has taken a different approach by fielding candidates. This shift in strategy has put them at the forefront of the political landscape, aiming to challenge the ruling party’s dominance.
On the other hand, the United Zimbabwe Alliance (UZA) has echoed the sentiment of the MDC, emphasizing the need for comprehensive and inclusive dialogue to address the underlying causes of the political crisis and implement meaningful reforms. The UZA perceives participating in the by-elections as an endorsement of an allegedly illegitimate system that led to the recalls.
The decision to hold the by-elections has also garnered criticism due to the financial implications. Reportedly, the December by-elections will cost at least US$5 million. Critics argue that these resources could be better allocated to national development and essential services, such as combating the ongoing cholera outbreak and addressing shortages of vital medical supplies.
The UZA justifies its decision to abstain from the by-elections, emphasizing the need to avoid legitimizing an allegedly illegitimate, unfair, and unsafe process. Instead, they intend to channel their resources and energies into mass action for electoral reforms and democratic change. Through constitutional means such as mass petitions, court challenges, and civic education, the UZA aims to pressure the government of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to implement the necessary reforms before any future elections. Additionally, the UZA is actively engaging with other progressive forces to build a united and broad front advocating for democracy and social justice.
The decisions made by the MDC and the UZA reflect the ongoing struggle for electoral reforms in Zimbabwe. The outcome of these by-elections will not only determine the representation in the National Assembly but also shape the political landscape and set the stage for future electoral battles.