SW Radio Africa/allAfrica
The new Constitution that was formally gazetted by Robert Mugabe on Wednesday makes his desired June election date technically unlawful, with months worth of preparations constitutionally required.
Mugabe and his ZANU PF party have been pushing for elections to be held as soon as the current Parliamentary term comes to an end on June 29th. This is the official date that marks the end of the fragile unity government between ZANU PF and the two MDC factions.
But according to the new set of laws, which Zimbabweans voted for in a referendum in March, a number of key amendments, national processes and other prerequisites are needed between now and the announcement of an election date.
According to a position paper published by the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), aimed at trying to clarify when an election could be held, the timing of elections is “difficult to estimate and essentially depends on when Parliament will complete election-related amendments and when those amendments become operational.”
The lawyers explained that certain electoral processes have changed in the new Constitution, and therefore the current Electoral Act, regulations, and other laws related to elections “must be amended so that they comply with the new Constitution.” At the same time, the new charter states in section 157(5) that all amendments to the Electoral Law and any other law relating to elections must be made before an election date is proclaimed.
“Once an election date is announced, absolutely no amendments can be made to the Electoral Law or other laws relating to elections, either by Parliament, or by the President using his executive powers under the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act. The President therefore has to wait for all electoral amendments to be adopted by both Houses of Parliament and he must sign them into law before he can announce an election date,” the lawyers explained.
For ZANU PF’s June election date therefore to be legal, all these amendments need to happen almost instantly. On top of that, a mandatory 30 day voter registration and inspection exercise is required after the gazetting of the new Constitution. The lawyers said that the failure to carry out this exercise “will be a violation of the new Constitution.”
The lawyers explained that at the very earliest, Mugabe could announce an election date half way through the registration exercise, but only if all the previously mentioned amendments have been finalized and are operational. The lawyers also stated that once an election date is proclaimed, “a minimum of 44 days (14 days between proclamation of the date and the sitting of the Nomination Court, and a further 30 days between the sitting of the Nomination Court and Polling Day) must elapse before actual voting.”
“If the above processes are not complied with there will be a constitutional crisis that would give rise to the real probability of protracted constitutional litigation,” the lawyers warned.
Blessing Vava from the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), which campaigned against the adoption of the new charter, said on Thursday that such constitutional regulations might not make any difference if Mugabe wants an early election.
“ZANU PF has a history of not respecting the constitution and the President has repeatedly made unilateral decision regardless of the laws. We already see the agitation of ZANU PF to have an election in June, when Parliament expires, and it is likely they are going to push a bit to have the election sooner (than the constitution stipulates),” Vava told SW Radio Africa. allafrica