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plans bill to boost re-election
January 11, 2008
article on The Zimbabwean website
The Zimbabwean government
is expected to push through Parliament next week a controversial
bill which critics say is aimed at boosting President Robert Mugabe's
re-election bid in March.
on Tuesday after a three-week break to consider a Local Government
Laws Amendment Bill which critics say will allow the 83-year-old
autocrat to gerrymander constituencies and consolidate his power
in local authorities.
The new Parliamentary
session comes as the opposition calls protests across the country
demanding free and fair polls.
The main opposition Movement
for Democratic Change (MDC) is demanding that the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission be reconstituted to undertake a transparent and all-inclusive
voter registration and delimitation exercise.
"The MDC wants a
new constitution before the next election and the date of the election
that allows implementation of comprehensive reforms and tangible
deliverables," MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
Leader of the House Patrick
Chinamasa said the government would move to adopt the Local Government
Laws Amendment Bill "without fear or favour" and would
not be deterred by criticism led by former colonial power Britain.
The Local Government
Laws Amendment Bill "harmonises" the presidential, parliamentary,
senate and municipal elections. It also contains amendments recognising
the new constitutional responsibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission for dividing council areas into wards. The Amendment
Bill also amends the Rural District Councils Act, the Urban
Councils Act and the Electoral
Critics say the amendment
bill forms the legal framework for the 2008 electoral theft and
the disenfranchisement of millions of Zimbabwean voters in the diaspora.
The Amendment Bill changes
the Urban Councils Act, setting the framework for the abolition
of executive mayors and executive committees and a return to the
pre-1996 system of mayors and deputy mayors (chairpersons and deputy
chairpersons for town councils) elected by councillors. Under the
changes, the minister of Local Government will now be empowered
to appoint non-voting councillors to represent special interests.
The changes also legislates
for the takeover of city councils by the Local Government minister
through the introduction of "caretakers" to run the affairs
of non-functioning councils, replacing the present system of "commissioners".
The amendments to the
Electoral Act merely reflect the abolition of the institution of
Zimbabwe government officials
said the parliamentary session starting on Tuesday would likely
coincide with the signing into law by Mugabe of a Public Order and
Security Amendment Bill as well as amendments to tough media laws.
The security and media laws were fast tracked through Parliament
before the House adjourned in December.
Critics say the amendments
are largely cosmetic while Mugabe retains sweeping powers to clamp
down on the opposition as he faces the biggest electoral challenge
since taking power in 1980.
The government says the
Local Government Laws Amendment Bill is aimed at consolidating electoral
legislation and has nothing to do with the March elections in which
Mugabe's main rival will be MDC leader Morgan Tsvangirai. The MDC
leader says that without violence, and in a fair and free political
environment, Mugabe would lose in March.
Parliament is also due
to consider an election regulations bill under which the government
proposes to ban local independent monitors from the March elections
and to bar private organisations from voter education.
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