Zimbabwe's newly-formed opposition party, which is less than two-months old, won a majority of parliamentary and local government seats which have been vacant since in 2018.
The Citizens Coalition for Change, led by Nelson Chamisa, the former head of the Movement for Democratic Change Alliance (MDC Alliance), scooped 19 of 28 National Assembly seats and 75 of 122 local council seats following Saturday's by-election, according to the country's electoral body.
Analysts say the victory has solidified Chamisa as the leader of Zimbabwe’s alternative political movement, competing against the country’s governing party, Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU PF).
Political analyst Effie Dlela Ncube argues that the by-election is proof that Zimbabwe has a lot of work to do to ensure free and fair elections in the upcoming 2023 general election.
“The recent elections were held under a cloud of violence, exclusion of registered voters and movement of voters from one constituency to another, showing that the country is far from having free and fair elections,” said Ncube. “This is giving advantage to the ruling party which is benefitting from the chaos and rigging.”
Voter figures released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, along with statements echoed by polling agents, show that the March 26 by-election had low voter turnout.
Ncube is urging opposition parties to rally its supporters in order to pose a significant challenge to ZANU PF in future elections.
“The opposition needs to cultivate its support base so that it turns out in large numbers to register its voters and then to turn out on the appointed day,” said Ncube.
Political analyst Thomas Sithole says ZANU PF deployed a variety of strategies to undercut the opposition — including working alongside the current MDC Alliance leader, Douglas Mwonzora — which he argues the electorate punished them for.
“The process that led to the by-elections was instigated by ZANU PF as a party that has managed to capture some political parties that have become complicit in the ransacking of the state,” said Sithole. “Mwonzora’s party is an extension of ZANU PF and is going to surrender everything to ZANU PF, but Zimbabweans are not stupid.”
The coordinator of the MDC Alliance, Marakia Bomani, told VOA that the group’s secretariat has recommended the suspension of Mwonzora following their poor performance.
Christopher Mutsvangwa, ZANU PF spokesperson says he is happy with the by-election's outcome because ZANU PF managed to maintain its two-thirds majority in parliament and gained two urban seats in areas traditionally won by the opposition.
“The people are rewarding us accordingly, so we are saying to the president more of the message of progress, more of the message of prosperity, more hope for young people,” said Mutsvangwa. “That is what is going to win us a tsunami of an election in 2023.”
Analysts said the recent by-election was a test that would likely determine what Zimbabwe can expect in the upcoming 2023 general election.
ZANU PF has led the country since it gained independence from Britain in 1980.