The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, widely criticized for its handling of the country's March general election and June presidential run-off ballot, has come under fire after announcing plans to organize by-elections to fill six empty parliamentary seats.
Critics argue that this is contrary to the spirit of the Sept. 15 power-sharing pact between the long-ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe and the Movement for Democratic Change of prime minister-designate Morgan Tsvangirai.
Citing "the need to allow this agreement to take root
amongst the parties and the people of Zimbabwe" and "to give our people...breathing space and a healing period" the accord says that for one year only the party holding a seat should field a candidate if it is vacated.
In the House of Assembly, the Gokwe-Gumunyu seat was
vacated on the death
of ZANU-PF MP Ephraim Mushoriwa. The Matobo North seat became empty
when Chairman Lovemore Moyo of the Tsvangirai MDC formation was elected
house speaker. The Guruve North seat fell vacant upon the death of
Mabharanga of ZANU-PF.
On the senate side, the Chegutu seat was
vacated by ZANU-PF's Edna Madzongwe when she was elected senate
president; the Chiredzi seat fell vacant after Titus Maluleke of
was appointed Provincial Governor of Masvingo; and the Gokwe South seat
was vacated by Jaison Max Kokerai Machaya of ZANU-PF, named Midlands
Electoral Commission officials say they are merely following the law. But observers express concern that holding
by-elections at this stage in the tenuous power-sharing process could lead
to violence in the six constituencies where seats would be filled.Electoral Commission Chairman George Chiweshe
told reporter Carole Gombakomba that although his panel has not yet set dates
for the proposed by-elections, it is moving ahead to organize them as specified by the country's electoral law.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network says
by-elections should not be held because the nation is still in shock from the widespread and often deadly violence which marred the period between the March elections and the
June presidential run-off ballot. ZESN National Director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava
said it is bad timing to call the by-elections when power-sharing has not even been implemented.
More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...