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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • The domino effect: Special voting and Zimbabwe's 2013 election
    Research and Advocacy Unit
    July 24, 2013

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    Until the ruling by the Constitutional Court on 31st May, 2013 in the case of Mawarire v Robert Gabriel Mugabe N.O. and Ors CCZ1/13 many lawyers and politicians assumed that the latest date for Zimbabwe’s 2013 general election was the 29th October. In this jurisprudentially questionable judgment, the Constitutional Court, however, decided otherwise. It held that the general election had, in terms of its interpretation of the relevant constitutional provisions, to be held before dissolution of Parliament on the 29th June, 2013. If the judgment was ill-conceived, the accompanying order of the court was more so. With the 29th June no longer legally possible as a date, the Court directed that the election had to be held as soon as possible – and that, the Court directed, was the 31st July, 2013.

    The Order of the Constitutional Court set in motion a train of illegalities, each perpetrated in an attempt to cure the last. It was not possible to comply with both the court order and various other legislative provisions relating to the election.

    The new Constitution provides for a mandatory intensive 30 day voter registration period, which, at the time of the ruling, had yet to commence. The Electoral Act provided that registration had to end the day before the nomination court sat, and the Constitution that elections could be no sooner than 30 days after such sitting. So there needed to be a sixty-day period between the start of the intensive registration period and the election. When the start of the intensive voter registration period was delayed until the 9th June, 2013, the Nomination Court could not sit before the 9th July if registration was to be done over 30 days in terms of the Act and the Constitution, and the election thus could not be before the 9th August, at the earliest.

    Mugabe sought to deal with these illegalities by perpetrating another. Under the cover of legislative powers granted to him under the Presidential Powers (Temporary) Measures Act, Mugabe purported to effect extensive changes to the Electoral Act by presidential regulation to provide, not only for the system of proportional representation required by the new Constitution, amongst other provisions, but also to allow voter registration to continue beyond the sitting of the Nomination Court. On the same day, 13th June, 2013, the election dates were proclaimed, setting the sitting of the Nomination Court for the 28th June, 2013, and thus leaving the 30 day period required until the elections, with a few days to spare.

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