18 November 2012

Zimbabwe: March Election Date Impossible - Research Unit

A local research unit has said it is almost impossible for the country to hold elections in March next year as demanded by President Robert Mugabe because the draft constitution is not yet ready.

The Research and Advocacy Unit (RAU) said the time frames that Mugabe wants are almost impossible to meet, considering that the Copac draft was yet to be debated by parliament.

The draft charter is also not ready for a referendum.

"So, if one step follows the other immediately and without delay, it is legally possible to have a new constitution in place before the end of March, as the only mandatory maximum is the 30-day period, which must be allowed between the gazetting of the Constitutional Bill and the passage of the Bill through parliament," reads a report by the research unit released on Friday.

The report however, says considering that many time frames had been missed, it was highly unlikely that the constitution would be debated before the end of this month, making a March election highly improbable.

It says if Mugabe wants an election in March, he should declare an election date by the beginning of next January at the earliest or mid-February at the latest, to allow the nomination courts and other electoral processes to be held.

The two MDC formations are demanding electoral reforms and an end to violence to level the playing field before elections.

The RAU report says if Zimbabwe had to follow the Sadc roadmap then the draft should have been, presented to parliament at the end of last month.

If it was approved, it would have been gazetted within one month and then introduced before parliament no earlier than 30 days after gazetting, making the end of December the earliest date for this process.

"And, as has been seen, the maximum periods provided by the GPA have been ignored and exceeded in every step of the process so far, and there is no reason to think that this pattern will not continue," reads the report.

If approved, the President must sign the act into law within 21 days, meaning this can only happen towards the end of January.

However, the draft constitution is yet to be brought before parliament, making it almost impossible for the election to be held in March, if the road map were to be followed.

Considering that most government services shut down from early December to late January, it was highly unlikely that the draft would have been approved in time for March elections.

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