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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Elections: Understanding proportional representation
    Percy F. Makombe
    July 31, 2013

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    It is said that anyone can be a democrat in victory; the true test of a democrat comes with defeat. As Zimbabwe gets into elections, a lot of comments have been flying about on proportional representation generating more heat than light.

    Almost five years ago, Zanu-PF and the two MDC formations signed the Global Political Agreement (GPA) mediated by SADC. A major purpose of this GPA was to look forward and begin a process in which Zimbabwe would not have elections that are not disputed. The GPA sought to deal with the problem of political legitimacy and prepare the ground for an agreed and acceptable election process.

    A lot of comments and scepticism can be expressed about whether in fact what is happening in Zimbabwe is an acceptable election process, what cannot be doubted however is the fact that one of the key deliverables of the GPA was a new constitution.

    On March 16, 2013, over 3 million Zimbabweans voted YES in support of the proposed basic law of the land. The harmonised elections on July 31 will be conducted according to the new constitution which introduces proportional representation. This changes the way National Assembly members and provincial councils are elected. A look at the electoral system that will be in use is important.

    Overview of election at national level

    The President has to be elected by a margin of at least 50% plus one vote, anything less than that necessitates a run-off between the two candidates with the highest number of votes. The National Assembly will have 271 members of which 210 are constituency representatives elected through a first-past-the-post system plus the 60 women – six from each of Zimbabwe’s ten provinces – who will come from the party lists through proportional representation. The 270 National Assembly members will then elect the Speaker from their members or from outside the National Assembly.

    The Senate will have 81 members broken down as follows:

    • 16 chiefs, two from each of the eight non-metropolitan provinces elected by the provincial assembly of chiefs
    • President and Vice President of the National Council of chiefs.
    • Two people elected to represent people with disabilities. These two are elected by the Electoral College of persons with disabilities. The National Disability Board (NDB) draws up provisional list of the electoral college in which all people on list must be disabled; half the people on list must be women; all people on the list must be registered voters and four people on list must be nominated by NDB.

    Seats for proportional representation

    Under the new constitution, three different categories of representatives will come through proportional representation.

    • 60 senators, six from each of the 10 provinces
    • 80 members 10 from each provincial council (Non-Metropolitan)
    • 60 seats in the National Assembly reserved for women, six seats each from 10 provinces.

    The reservation of these seats is only for the first 10 years after which it will fall away. This also means that every vote cast for the National Assembly seats is equal to four votes. It is a vote for the constituency candidate; it is also a vote for any one of the six senators in the province as well as a vote for the six women candidates per province and finally a vote for any one of the ten councillors in the provincial assemblies (non-metropolitan).

    The party lists for the Senate and provincial council elections will follow what is called a Zebra format - female and male alternately headed by female.

    Method of allocating proportional representation

    How proportional representation will be allocated can be seen if we take an example of a province with three constituencies X, Y and Z. What would happen is that the contesting parties are listed on a table starting with the party with most votes.

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