Zimbabwe court orders by-elections
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s supreme court has ordered President Robert Mugabe to call by-elections in three constituencies, a decision that could boost his rivals’ majority in parliament.
Mugabe was ordered “to publish a notice ordering new elections to fill the vacancies as soon as possible but by no later than August 30,” said the court.
The order, which threw out an appeal by the veteran leader, means that after he calls the by-elections, a nomination court must convene and set a polling date for within 50 days of its sitting.
The seats fell vacant after lawmakers from a splinter group of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party crossed the aisle to join Tsvangirai’s faction.
They were expelled from their party in 2009 and lost their parliamentary seats.
The ruling, handed down onThursday but made public on Friday, could see a change in the composition of the 210-seat lower house of parliament.
The MDC currently holds 96 seats and Mugabe’s Zanu-PF has 91. The three seats are in Tsvangirai’s stronghold and are likely to be won by his party.
After the 2008 election, the MDC had 110 seats against Zanu-PF’s 99. Other seats have fallen vacant in recent years, mainly due to deaths.
The latest ruling is likely to further strain relations in Zimbabwe’s shaky power-sharing government, formed three years ago by longtime rivals Mugabe and Tsvangirai to avoid a tip into full-fledged conflict in the aftermath of a bloody presidential run-off election in 2008.
The three lawmakers won a court case in October last year when high court judge Nicholas Ndou ordered Mugabe to call fresh elections within 14 days in their constituencies in the south-western province of Matabeleland.
But Mugabe appealed the high court ruling and asked the supreme court to reverse it. The supreme court unanimously dismissed the veteran ruler’s appeal with costs. – Nampa-AFP