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Note on proposed harmonisation of presidential and parliamentary elections
Veritas
April 09, 2007

Press reports of the decisions reached by the ZANU-PF Central Committee on 30th March are not entirely clear or consistent, but it seems that implementing those decisions will entail at least the following changes:-

Harmonisation of Presidential and Parliamentary elections for 2008

Neither the Constitution nor the Electoral Act would have to be amended.

1. President Mugabe’s present term of office will expire on the 31st March 2008. Under the Electoral Act the election to fill the vacancy must be held during the 90-day period before that date.

2. The holding of a general election for a new Parliament at the same time as the Presidential election could be brought about by President Mugabe’s dissolving Parliament at an appropriate stage in early 2008 and ordering the resulting general election to be held on the same date/s as the Presidential election.

Mandatory harmonisation of all Presidential and Parliamentary elections after 2008 would, however, require constitutional amendments to the provisions for the President's term of office [now 6 years] and the duration of a Parliament [now maximum 5 years].

Change in method of election of new President where incumbent resigns or dies in office

Requires amendment of both the Constitution and the Electoral Act

The reported proposal is that where an incumbent President resigns before completing his term of office or dies in office, Parliament, sitting as an electoral college, will elect a new President to complete the term of office.

Note: At present, in the event of a President’s resignation or death in office, the Chief Elections Officer must call a Presidential Election in which a new President must be directly elected by voters countrywide within 90 days of the office falling vacant. The new President would serve a full term of office rather than completing his predecessor’s term of office. Pending the election and swearing in of a new President, a Vice President acts as President.

Change in method of election of Senators

Requires amendment of both the Constitution and the Electoral Act

The proposal is that elected Senators [presently directly elected by the voters in 50 senatorial constituencies] will no longer be directly elected, but rather elected/appointed [the proposals do not say which, or if elected by whom] on the basis of proportional representation of political parties in the House of Assembly.

Note: that the Electoral Act has never been amended to include provision for the election of Senators to give effect to the introduction of the Senate in 2005 [Constitutional Amendment No. 17]. The Senate elections in November 2005 were conducted in terms of temporary transitional provisions contained in Constitutional Amendment No. 17. It is assumed that the opportunity will now be taken to incorporate suitable permanent provisions for Senate elections in the Electoral Act.

Increase in numbers of MPs and Senators and changes to composition of House of Assembly and Senate

Requires amendment of both the Constitution and the Electoral Act

House of Assembly

Existing (total 150)   Proposed (total 210)  
Elected by voters
120
  Elected by voters
200
Provincial Governors
10
  Appointed by President
10
Chiefs elected by Chiefs
8
     
Appointed by President
12
     

Senate

Existing (total 66)   Proposed (total 84)  
Elected by voters
50
  Elected by system of p.r.
60
Chiefs elected by Chiefs
10
  Chiefs elected by Chiefs
10
Appointed by President
6
  Provincial Governors
10
      Appointed by President
4

Note: Increasing the number of elected MPs will require an increase in the number of constituencies, necessitating not only the early appointment of a Delimitation Commission to carry out a new delimitation of constituencies, but also the preparation of new voters rolls.

An additional amendment to the Electoral Act is required to by the decision of the Supreme Court in Marimo & MDC v Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs & Others Judgment No SC 25/06, declaring the method of appointment of Electoral Court judges under section 162 of the Electoral Act to be inconsistent with the Constitution.

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