The Government is reportedly mulling plans to do away with by-elections and allow political parties to choose a replacement in the event a legislator is recalled from Parliament or dies, under the pretext of the huge cost involved in running them.
An unnamed government official told NewsDay that if MDC Alliance MPs boycott Parliament en masse, over $100 million will be required to hold by-elections. Said the official:
A by-election in one constituency can take up to $2 million to run, now imagine if we are going to have by-elections in close to 50 constituencies in the event the MDC Alliance legislators, who have decided to boycott Parliament, are recalled? That would be over $100 million which could have been used to revive the economy.
However, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) said it has not proposed the scrapping of by-elections. ZEC chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana said:
From the side of Zec, we have not made any such proposal. As it stands, any vacancy that arises will be filled in through a by-election and we are ready to fulfil our mandate. But, as you are aware, Zec has issued a statement that we have suspended the holding of by-elections because of the COVID-19.
Critics consider the plan to scrap by-elections a ZANU PF ploy to put MDC-T acting leader Thokozani Khupe and her supporters in Parliament through the back door.
Khupe’s MDC-T has already recalled four MDC Alliance MPs from Parliament.