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Chamisa's Citizens' Coalition for Change wins 19 out of 28 seats in grand by-election battle

New party established as main opposition force trouncing state-backed rivals amid claims of violence and rigging

Just two months after he launched the Citizens' Coalition for Change (CCC), Nelson Chamisa has led the new party to victory in 19 out of 28 by-elections held on 26 March (AC Vol 63 No 3, New bid to revive the opposition).

That he did so on the platform of a brand new party in the face of attempts at election-rigging, hostile state media and violence against his campaign reinforces the achievement. It also shows widespread disenchantment with persistent high-level corruption and the government's economic mismanagement. National elections are due in the second half of 2023.

In all those 19 seats, the CCC's main rival was the Movement for Democratic Change – Alliance (MDC-A) led by Douglas Mwonzora, ostensibly an opposition grouping but widely believed to be close to the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF – AC Vol 62 No 1, Mnangagwa digs in). MDC-A's poor results seemed to have finished it off as a political force. It has lost its value for ZANU-PF as a means to split the opposition and hold back leading politicians such as Chamisa and Tendai Biti, former finance minister and a now an MP for CCC.

ZANU-PF made much of winning in Epworth and Mutasa South, formerly opposition seats in peri-urban areas. It held on to another seven rural seats which also voted on 26 March.

Control of the countryside is still key to ZANU-PF's electoral strategy. About two-thirds of Zimbabweans live in rural areas according to the World Bank.

Particularly worrying for President Emmerson Mnangagwa is the CCC's strong performance in Midlands, his political base. At least one person was killed when thugs linked to ZANU-PF attacked a rally organised by Chamisa in Kwekwe, Mnangagwa's home town. Signs of diminishing support for Mnangagwa could spur more factional divisions in ZANU-PF (AC Vol 63 No 2, Dismissal could herald regime shake-up).

For almost two decades, opposition parties have been dominant in cities. Chamisa and the CCC are inheriting that urban support but will also have to make substantial inroads into the countryside where they have faced orchestrated violence from ZANU-PF factions.

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Annual Conference

Special reports from the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front's annual conference, 14-17 December 2006. This article is free to all users in Special Reports.