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Zimbabwe’s ruling party secured a super-majority in parliament after winning by-elections on Saturday, enabling them to modify the constitution and extend the president’s rule, amid allegations from the opposition of fraud and political maneuvers, Agence France-Presse reported.
The ZANU-PF party won all the by-elections held in six constituencies, which were formerly represented by lawmakers from the opposition.
The party of President Emmanuel Mnangagwa now holds 190 of the 280 seats in parliament, providing them with the two-thirds majority required by the constitution to pass constitutional amendments. They had fallen short of that benchmark in the August 2023 general election.
Observers said ZANU-PF could use this new tool to remove the presidential two-term limit and allow 81-year-old Mnangagwa to run again.
However, the opposition decried the party’s clean sweep on Saturday as fraud.
A self-proclaimed interim leader of the opposition party Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), Sengezo Tshabangu, recalled the six lawmakers which left open seats in the districts.
Opposition supporters attacked the move, insisting that Tshabangu was a ZANU-PF “stooge,” imposed on the party to help the ruling party from within. CCC chairman Nelson Chamisa quit the party during the recalls in January.
Regardless, the ruling party won those open seats.
Mnangagwa took power with the army’s support after a 2017 coup ousted Zimbabwe’s longest-serving head of state, Robert Mugabe. Previously an ally of Mugabe, Mnangagwa promised democratic reforms upon becoming president.
He has since denied clamping down on the opposition.
However, last week, opposition figure Job Sikhala was convicted of inciting public violence after already spending nearly two years in pre-trial detention, the Associated Press reported. Sikhala, described by his supporters as the face of resistance to the government’s repressive measures, had been accused of inciting violent protests following the assassination and dismembering of a CCC activist.