BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
ZANU PF and MDC have been warned against using by-election results as a harbinger of the 2023 election outcome, though the outcomes’ psychological impact on the respective parties support base cannot be ignored.
Zanu PF has been trouncing MDC Alliance in almost all by-elections held since last year’s harmonised elections, prompting ruling party sympathisers to declare that they would once again outsmart the opposition in the next general elections.
Just over the weekend, the ruling party recorded an outright victory in the Tsholotsho Rural District Council by-elections, garnering a total of 1 067 votes against MDC Alliance’s 168.
Zanu PF also won a council by-election held on the same day in Hwedza, Mashonaland East.
However, political analysts told Southern Eye that though the by-election outcomes have a huge psychological impact to supporters, political parties should not be carried away.
“It is too early to say that the outcomes of recent by-elections are a harbinger of the 2023 election outcome. So many things are likely to change between now and then to worsen the situation for the opposition or turn the tide against Zanu PF,” political analyst Effie Ncube, said.
“Political parties would be stupid to ignore or read too much into the by-elections. While they are not a photocopy of what is to come, they have a huge psychological impact. They embolden Zanu PF and its membership. This may result in a huge election turnout for Zanu PF members in 2023 and depressed turnout for the opposition,” he said.
Ncube, however, said the opposition needed to work on a message that is tailored for rural communities and campaign hard.
“Fighting for electoral and political reforms is critical and should be heard, but it cannot substitute for a winning message. You need both. The urban economic and social priorities are different to the rural ones. A message meant for urban voters can only yield a loss in rural elections,” he said.
MDC has been pressuring the ruling party, demanding electoral reforms with little success.
“The other thing is that opposition parties must work on strong rural structures instead of parachuting in and out during elections. They must be visible and speak to issues in those communities throughout the electoral cycle.”
Another political analyst Bekezela Maduma Fuzwayo said the MDC was not positioning itself as a better alternative to the rural electorate.
“The opposition party needs to start thinking of how it will up its game against Zanu PF especially in the rural areas. It’s not enough for the MDC to bank its support on the disgruntled urban electorate which they also risk losing if they continue to take it for granted,” Fuzwayo said.
“The by-elections trend must begin to be warning bells for the MDC to shake up now because if people can still vote for Zanu PF in these difficult times it may be worse in 2023 when the economy will definitely have improved.”