A High Court judge in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, has ordered President Robert Mugabe and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to call by-elections in three vacant constituencies in Matabeleland, giving the head of state and commission two weeks to comply.
Judge Nicholas Ndou in his ruling ordered the president and commission to announce election dates in Lupane East, Nkayi South and Bulilima East. But sources in the Office of the Attorney General said the state will most likely appeal the ruling.
Mr. Mugabe and others in the delicately-balanced government of national unity have been reluctant to hold by-elections, citing the financial burden but also fears that election campaigns might destabilize the fragile power-sharing arrangement.
No by-elections have been held since the unity government was launched in 2009 though seats have been vacated by deaths and political party infighting.
There are currently 19 seats to be filled in Parliament according to papers filed by Abednico Bhebhe, Njabuliso Mguni and Norman Mpofu, who argued that the government stands in violation of the section of the Constitution saying by-elections should be held within three months of when a seat becomes vacant.
Bhebhe told VOA reporter Blessing Zulu that he and his fellow litigants hope President Mugabe will comply with the High Court ruling.
Constitutional law expert Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, said government arguments for delaying the polls are without foundation.