In the Extraordinary Zimbabwean Government Gazette of 30 June 2023, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) published the final list of successful presidential and National Assembly contestants for the 2023 harmonised elections – 10 days after the nominations court had sat to register candidates seconded by different political parties. The nominations court process was marred by a plethora of irregularities, chief among them the high nomination fees and alleged cases of fraudulent registration of candidates without the approval of their sponsoring political parties.
The 30 June Government Gazette confirmed these allegations as the main opposition party, the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) had more than one candidate contesting for 20 National Assembly seats. If the list published by ZEC is anything to go by, the CCC has double candidates in seventeen (17) constituencies and triple candidates in three (3) constituencies, particularly in Harare and Bulawayo Metropolitan provinces. Strikingly, the CCC is the only party with double or multiple candidates on the final list, raising suspicions that this state of affairs has been deliberately engineered by the ruling party to divide and rule the opposition.
In response, the CCC disowned some of the candidates published on the list by ZEC, stating that they clandestinely nominated themselves without the approval of the party. The CCC even published its own list of “authentic” candidates for the National Assembly. But who will listen, and will votes be confused when they go to the polling station? And if so, what does this mean to the CCC’s chances of winning seats in parliament?
Whereas what happened to arrive at this situation is still sketchy, everyone knows that if this issue is not resolved promptly, a likely consequence is that CCC will be handing over 20 National Assembly seats to ZANU-PF before voting has even begun. What should worry the CCC is that these are seats in urban areas where it has enjoyed significant support in the 2022 by-elections – another indication that the duplicate candidates is a ploy designed to help the ruling party further reinforce its dominance.
On 21 June, the CCC responded by approaching both the ZEC and the Electoral Court to challenge the eligibility of some candidates. The ZEC responded by indicating that it does not have the jurisdiction to intervene in the decisions made by the nominations court, effectively saying that as the case was before a court of law, redress can only be given by the courts. The CCC has also reported those who registered without the party’s approval to the Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP), but given that the police force is heavily politicised this is unlikely to bring any relief.
This leaves the Electoral Court, but this is likely to prove a dead end. If past legal precedence is anything to go by, the Electoral Court will simply drag the case until the day of the election, when it will be too late to remove them from the ballot paper.
As with other recent changes, such as the increased cost of standing as a candidate, this farce only benefits ZANU-PF, which raises the question of whether the ruling party is secretly funding some of the duplicate CCC candidates who otherwise would likely struggle to afford the fees. The CCC must also take its share of the blame, however, because repeated delays to its own primary process, and a lack of clarity over who would be the candidates, has contributed to this process. To some extent, the opposition must therefore face up to the fact that this is a situation that, however unfair, it has partly brought on itself.
Leon Poshai is a researcher, elections analyst and writer based in Zimbabwe.