DISGRUNTLED aspiring parliamentarians have threatened to split their parties’ votes by standing as independents in the imminent high-stakes elections in protest against primary polls criteria they believe unfairly ring-fence party heavyweights.
Report by Elias Mambo
Zanu PF and MDC-T have set primary elections selection criteria being resisted by aspiring candidates who say the procedures are aimed at sidelining new entrants while safeguarding the incumbents.
To demonstrate its opposition to selection criteria adopted by its party, the MDC-T Supporters’ Forum said it would be mobilising disqualified candidates and campaigning for them to contest as independents.
“The forum is already mobilising aspiring candidates who have been barred by these MPs to stand as independent candidates,” said the forum in a statement.
“We reiterate that the only democratic criterion of selecting candidates is to have an open membership meeting where all contestants in the constituencies will be nominated and seconded by voters.”
In the 2008 harmonised elections, independent candidates split the vote resulting in Zanu PF, MDC-T and the MDC failing to secure victory in constituencies in which they would otherwise have won.
This partly helped to create a hung parliament.
The most significant splitting of votes was in the presidential poll where current Dawn/Mavambo/Kusile leader Simba Makoni claimed 8% of the vote, denying MDC-T leader Morgan Tsvangirai, who garnered 47%, an outright victory to wrest power from President Robert Mugabe.
Instead, Tsvangirai was forced into a run-off with Mugabe, but pulled out citing state-sponsored violence unleashed on his supporters.
MDC-T also suffered significant losses, especially in the Midlands, after fielding more than one candidate in each constituency due to factionalism.
MDC-T spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora said his party would stick to the rules and those who want to contest as independent candidates could do so at their own peril.
“MDC-T is a party of rules and it has a constitution which must be followed,” Mwonzora said.
“The constitution stipulates a selection criterion and those who do not qualify should be patient and allow the ones who do to represent the party in the general elections. If they decide to run as independent candidates then they would have resigned from the MDC-T.”
Political analyst Jabusile Shumba said the next elections would feature more independent candidates than in previous ones.
“We are likely to see a lot of independent candidates in the next elections judging by the disgruntlement in both Zanu PF and the MDC-T caused by the stringent candidate selection criteria which the parties are employing,” he said.
Shumba also said the delay in finalising rules for primary elections would have a negative impact on the political parties because those who would be disqualified may opt to contest as independents as they have already invested time and resources in campaigning.'