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Update on party voting strengths in Parliament - Bill Watch 49/2010
November 24, 2010

Current Party Voting Strengths in Parliament

The numbers for the current voting strengths exclude the 10 seats in the Senate normally occupied by the Provincial Governors. The allocation of Provincial Governors is still being hotly contested between parties. The President allocated them all to ZANU-PF despite an agreement that was supposed to have been reached that they should be distributed between the three parties in the GPA. The MDC-T have contested this, both by protests resulting in a three-month adjournment of the Senate and, today, by launching a court case on the issue. [See more below.]

House of Assembly Total available to vote 200 [total potential seats 214]

ZANU-PF: 96 MDC-T: 96 MDC-M: 8

Senate Total available to vote 80 [total potential seats 100]

ZANU-PF: 45* MDC-T: 27 MDC-M: 8

*The ZANU-PF Senate figure includes the 17 senator chiefs, because chiefs have traditionally voted ZANU-PF. There should be 18 chiefs, but one chief died last year and has not yet been replaced.

Figures exclude the Attorney General – although he has the right to sit and to speak in both Houses, he has no vote. All other members are voting members – whether elected, appointed, nominated, ex officio, constituency or non-constituency, chiefs or provincial governors

Recap on How Voting Strengths in the Current Parliament have Changed

Bill Watch 2/2010 set out party voting strengths in Parliament as at 20th January and how they were arrived at. Changes since then have been caused by two deaths [one MDC-T MP in June and one ZANU-PF elected Senator in July] and two MDC-T MPs having their suspensions lifted [see below for more details on these suspensions]. Throughout, the figures below do not include the AG and chiefs and provincial governors have been included in ZANU-PF totals.

When the New Parliament Opened in August 2008

Actual voting strengths

House of Assembly – total seats taken up 209 [total potential seats 210]

ZANU-PF: 98 [99]* MDC-T: 100 [100]* MDC-M: 10 [10] Independent: 1

Senate – total seats taken up 91 [total potential seats 93]

ZANU-PF: 61 [63]* MDC-T: 24 [24]* MDC-M: 6 [6]*

[The potential party seats as gained through elections and Presidential appointments are denoted by the figures in brackets.]:

[Not all seats were taken up because one ZANU PF member of the House of Assembly died in July and was not replaced through a by-election; and two of the possible five Presidential appointments to the Senate had not been made.]

After February 2009 additional seats were allocated by the GPA

As a result of Constitution Amendment No. 19’s incorporation of GPA Article 20 into the Constitution, the number of Parliamentary seats was increased by the addition of 4 ex officio or nominated members to the House of Assembly [an increase from 210 to 214] and 7 ex officio or nominated members to the Senate [an increase from 93 to 100]. [See Bill Watch 9/2009 of 13th March 2009 for how these were distributed between the parties.]

Actual voting strengths

House of Assembly [total potential seats 214]

ZANU-PF: 97 [100]* MDC-T: 101 [102]* MDC-M: 11 [11]* Independent: 1

Senate [total potential seats 100]

ZANU-PF: 60 [64]* MDC-T: 28 [28]* MDC-M: 8 [8]*

[*Potential party seats are denoted by the figures in brackets.]

Not all seats were occupied, as a result of incumbents being elected to the posts of Speaker and President of the Senate or appointed as provincial governors, appointed seats not being filled, and vacancies caused by deaths.

Voting Strengths at 20th January 2010

Actual voting strengths

House of Assembly [total potential seats 214]

ZANU-PF: 96 [101]* MDC-T: 95 [102]* MDC-M: 8 [11]*

Senate [total potential seats 100]

ZANU-PF: 56 [64]* MDC-T: 27 [28]* MDC-M: 8 [8]*

[*Potential party seats are denoted by the figures in brackets.]

Note: The ZANU-PF House of Assembly figure includes former Independent MP Jonathan Moyo, who rejoined ZANU-PF in October 2009, as well as provincial governors and chiefs. The MDC-T House of Assembly figure reflects the suspension of 4 MPs. The MDC-M House of Assembly figure reflects the expulsion from Parliament of 3 MPs who had left the party.

Suspensions of Members Sentenced to Imprisonment

In terms of section 42 of the Constitution a prison sentence of more than six months for a criminal offence triggers automatic suspension from Parliament, notwithstanding the noting of an appeal or granting of bail. In January 2010 four MDC-T members of the House of Assembly had been in that position for several months. Two have since had their convictions overturned on appeal, ending their suspensions – most recently Mathias Mlambo, MDC-T MP for Chipinge East, whose conviction was set aside by the High Court on 28th October. The two MPs still under suspension awaiting the hearing of their appeals by the High Court are Meki Makuyana, MP for Chipinge South, and Shuah Mudiwa, MP for Mutare West.

By-Elections for Constituency Seats

18 vacant constituency seats: At present there are 18 vacancies in these seats, 11 in the House of Assembly and 7 in the Senate.

The first vacancy in a constituency seat arose when a newly-elected ZANU-PF member of the House of Assembly died shortly before Parliament met for the first time in 2008. Other constituency seats have fallen vacant since for various causes – deaths, election of incumbents to the offices of Speaker and President of the Senate, appointment of incumbents as provincial governors, and the expulsion of members for leaving the political party under whose auspices they were elected.

Failure to hold by-elections unconstitutional: In terms of the Constitution and the Electoral Act by-elections to fill these vacancies should have been called by the President within 14 days after the occurrence of each vacancy. But no by-elections have been called or held, meaning that voters in the constituencies concerned have been unconstitutionally and illegally denied the Parliamentary representation to which they are entitled.

Not even the appointment of the new Zimbabwe Electoral Commission earlier in the year resulted in the President calling by-elections. A High Court action by would-be candidates in Bulawayo to compel the President and ZEC to call and hold by-elections has not yet been heard. In August the ZEC chairperson acknowledged concern over the by-elections backlog but declined further comment, saying the Bulawayo case made the matter sub judice. ZEC’s formal response to the court case was that it could not conduct by-elections until the President had published proclamations calling them.

Extension of GPA no-contest pact: One of the 24 points agreed by the inter-party negotiators and endorsed by the principals on 4th August was the indefinite extension of the GPA pact that, to avoid conflict, the parties would not contest by-elections against each other – in other words, the party originally holding a vacant seat would not be opposed in a by-election by the other two GPA parties. [Other parties or independent candidates are not affected by the pact – they would be free to contest by-elections.] See Bill Watch 34/2010 of 31st August. As so few of the 24 agreed points have been implemented, it remains to be seen if this one is honoured if by elections are called.

Filling the Vacant Chief’s Seat in the Senate

The President and Deputy President of the Council of Chiefs are ex officio members of the Senate. The other 16 Senator Chiefs – 2 for each of the 8 rural provinces – are elected by the provincial assemblies of chiefs sitting as electoral colleges. One of the two Matabeleland South seats is vacant following the death of Senator Chief Bidi last year. Under the Electoral Act it is the President who summons the electoral college to meet – and that has not been done, although the Act says the summons must be issued within 14 days of the President being informed of the vacancy.

Provincial Governors and Senate Voting Strengths

The President recently re-appointed 10 ZANU-PF governors. He failed to consult the Prime Minister before making the appointments. Since Article 20 of the GPA was incorporated into the Constitution by Constitution Amendment No. 19, he had a constitutional obligation to consult the Prime Minister. This was not done, so the MDC-T noisily protested their taking seats in the Senate [see Bill Watch 46 of 10th November and Bill Watch 47 of 13th November]. As a result the Senate was adjourned for three months. An agreement had been reached between the GPA parties for the provincial governorships to be shared between the parties in a ratio according to the number of votes for each party in 2008: MDC-T 5, MDC-M 1, ZANU-PF 4. Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s lawyers today filed papers launching a High Court case against the President, the Minister of Local Government and the 10 governors, contesting the legality of the 10 re-appointments. He has also protested to the SADC facilitation team. If governorships are shared between the parties this would result in changes in party voting strengths in the Senate. It could affect voting strengths in the House of Assembly, too, as three people MDC-T have earmarked for governors are members of that House.

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