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New Constitution-making process - Index of articles
representation: Exploring the unknown unknown
Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) and Idasa
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"There are known
knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns.
That is to say, there are things that we know we don't know. But
there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don't know
we don't know." This well known quote from Donald Rumsfeld
comes to mind when considering the provisions relating to proportional
representation which appear in the proposed constitution for the
country. It is apparent, at least as far as the main political parties
are concerned, that issues relating to proportional representation
presently fall with the group of unknown unknowns.
constitution beguilingly provides that 60 of the 80 members
of the Senate (six from each of the ten provinces, elected in such
a manner as to ensure a near gender parity), 60 of the 270 members
of the National Assembly (again, six from each province, all of
whom must be women) and 10 persons on each Provincial Council, will
be elected on the basis of proportional representation.
Thus the proposed constitution
stipulates that an Act of Parliament must provide for the conduct
of elections, and in particular, for a system of proportional representation
for the election of persons to the seats in the Senate, the seats
reserved for women in the National Assembly and the procedure for
filling vacancies in those seats.
The election of Senators
and Provincial Councillors is through a party-list system of proportional
representation. This is based on the votes cast for candidates representing
political parties in each of the provinces in the general election
for Members of the National Assembly and in which male and female
candidates are listed alternately, every list being headed by a
female candidate. The formula used for those elected through proportional
representation to the 60 seats reserved for women in National Assembly
is the same, bar one important difference. While there is obviously
no need for a requirement that male and female candidates are listed
alternately on the party lists, the relevant provision egregiously
omits any mention of party lists entirely.
Nonetheless, the broad
idea is this: suppose, merely by way of illustration, that of the
total votes cast for the National Assembly seats in the constituencies
lying in Masvingo Province, MDC-T garners three-sixths, ZANU PF
two sixths and MDC one-sixth. Then the top three persons on the
MDC-T list of candidates for the Senate will gain seats, and the
top two on the ZANU PF list for the Senate and the top candidate
on the MDC list for the Senate will also gain seats. A similar process
would be adopted for the Provincial Councils and the National Assembly
women - though in the latter instance, how the candidates are to
be determined is left open in the absence of any mention of party
At first glance this
seems straight forward and for this reason no further links seem
to have been added to the chain of thought of the persons who negotiated
the proposed constitution. However, unknown to the political parties,
the devil lies in the unknown details of proportional representation
which can lead to fiendish complexities.
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