By-elections are being held in Zimbabwe to replace opposition lawmakers who were forced to step aside. DW's Columbus Mavhunga reports that the elections are likely to lead to a further weakening of the opposition.
The by-elections, which are to be held on Wednesday (10.06.2015), were called after 21 members of parliament left the opposition MDC-T party and were subsequently expelled from the assembly.
Under the Zimbabwean constitution, if a member of parliament joins or forms another political party, their seat is declared vacant and a fresh election is called within 90 days.
The members of parliament were stripped of their mandates earlier this year.
The opposition MDC-T is not fielding candidates at these by-elections; only the smaller parties are entering the fray and taking on the ruling ZANU-PF party of President Robert Mugabe.
MDC-T say they want meaningful democratic reforms before taking part in Zimbabwean elections.
Zimbabwean analysts such Charles Mangongera find MDC-T's boycott of the by-elections difficult to comprehend.
"The monumental challenges that Zimbabweans face today require that the opposition forces at least come together and fight in one corner," he told DW. He also said it was certain that "Zanu-PF is going to increase its stranglehold on the legislative chamber."
But analyst Joy Mabenge told DW's Africalink show that if the MDC boyocott applies pressure on the regime of President Mugabe to take electoral reform seriously then that "would be a good thing."
ZANU-PF won more than two thirds of the seats at the last national election in 2013.
The ruling party is also united as it enters the by-elections despite having expelled hundreds of senior officials linked to former vice president Joice Mujuru.
Mujuru was expelled from ZANU-PF in December for allegedly having tried to topple 91-year-old Robert Mugabe. Her successor, Emmerson Mnangangwa, widely tipped to replace Mubgabe one day, has been telling ZANU-PF supporters the party should put past turbulence behind and focus on gaining more seat. "We must always be peaceful and remain united," she said.
Independent candidate from Mugabe's home province arrested
The few candidates who are opposing the ruling party are facing brutal attacks from alleged ZANU-PF gangs.
Temba Mliswa is an independent candidate who is contesting the Hurungwe West seat. The former chairman of ZANU-PF for Mashonaland West, Mugabe's home province, was expelled from the ruling party because of his support for Joice Mujuru.
Mliswa was arrested in the run-up to the by-elections; his supporters have also been detained and intimidated.
"I am not afraid. I have told you quite clearly. Because of my popularity, people naturally come. There is so much desperation [in ZANU-PF], I see it," he told DW.
Zimbabwe's next national elections are not due until 2018.