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Election will not Change Grip on Power
*Sternford Moyo
Extracted from International Bar Association, Zimbabwe Election Focus
March 25, 2005

As the country enters elections in 2005, it is con- fronted by the very rare phenomenon of an election devoid of legal authority to renew or transfer executive authority. The forthcoming election cannot, in terms of the Constitution, produce a new government. Although the resultant Parliament can function as a forum for debate and expression of grievances, a monitor and a scrutiniser of government expenditure, and as a legislature, it will not be fully representative of the electorate, neither will it have the power to create a new executive authority for the country or to make or break a government.

President's all encompassing authority In terms of the current Constitution, the executive authority of Zimbabwe is vested in the President and is exercisable by him directly or through Vice Presidents, Ministers and Deputy Ministers appointed by him. He appoints all diplomatic representatives representing Zimbabwe. He receives and recognises all diplomatic representatives hosted by Zimbabwe. He enters into all international treaties and conventions. He has the power to make all constitutional appointments. He assents to all legislation before it can be gazetted into law. He appoints the eight provincial governors who are ex-officio members of Parliament and 12 members of parliament. He appoints ten chiefs who become eligible for election by his appointee chiefs to parliament. In summary, he appoints, directly and indirectly, 30 out of the 150 members of parliament. The President's term of office expires in 2008. Executive Authority of Zimbabwe is vested in him until then, and he remains Head of State, Head of Government, and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of Zimbabwe. Constitutionally, whatever the outcome of the forthcoming general election, there will be no change in the status of the President as Head of State, Head of Government, and Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces vested with the executive authority of the country.

Stranglehold on parliament
The President is part of the legislature. No Bill can become law unless he gives it assent. Should Parliament decide to pursue the enactment of any law he will have refused to assent to, it passes a special assent motion. Where the President is not happy with the assent motion, he has the power to dissolve parliament. Accordingly, no parliament can force the enactment of any law which is not acceptable to the President. There are only three mechanisms for a constitutional transfer of executive authority by a hostile majority in Parliament. These are a vote of no confidence, an impeachment motion, or a constitutional amendment. Each of the three requires the support of two-thirds of members of parliament to succeed. Armed with the 30 seats referred to above, the Government requires only 21 additional seats from the forthcoming general election to defeat any of the three motions. Furthermore, despite the apparent absurdity of it all, in theory the President can constitutionally reverse the outcome of a general election by exercising his power to dissolve parliament.

A note to election observers
In conclusion, before even adverting to other pertinent issues such as the absence of constitutional guarantees for full citizen participation in political processes, the negative impact on citizen participation and freedom of expression of repressive legislation such as the Public Order and Security Act and the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the impact of late access to State media by opposition political parties, the dominance of State Broadcasting as opposed to Public Broadcasting, obstacles to the exercise of universal adult suffrage, the negative impact of limitations on voter education, and the partiality or otherwise of electoral institutions, it would be interesting if election observers could answer a more fundamental question. Is it possible to have, as a democratic free and fair election, an election which cannot renew or terminate the executive authority of a government? Furthermore, it would be interesting if they could turn their attention to the non-general character of the election. In other words, is an election in which 20 per cent of the members of parliament become members of parliament without election a general election?

*Sternford Moyo is former President of the Law Society of Zimbabwe and Vice-President of SADC Law Association

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