21 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Constitution Deal Waives Election Timelines

Photo: Parliament of Zimbabwe
Parliament of Zimbabwe

THE draft Constitution has waived timelines within which President Mugabe can call for elections.

This comes amid indications that leaders of political parties may cut on the timelines on Constitution-making that were provided in the Global

Political Agreement as efforts to hold polls gather momentum.

Copac co-chairpersons Cde Munyaradzi Paul Mangwana (Zanu-PF) and Mr Douglas Mwonzora (MDC-T) said the new provision had been arrived at because they did not know when the Constitution-making process was going to be completed.

This means the President could immediately call for elections anytime after the new Constitution has been adopted.

"The forthcoming elections will have no timelines in the new Constitution because those elections are not going to be determined by the new law," said Cde Mangwana.

"The date will be proclaimed by President Mugabe anytime after the referendum.

However, the elections to follow will be guided by the new Constitution that requires that Parliament should be dissolved 30 days before expiry of its term."

Added Mr Mwonzora: "This draft does not provide for when the elections are going to be held for the forthcoming polls only. This election will be declared in terms of the Global Political Agreement where the President and the Prime Minister will have to analyse certain things that need to be done and then the date for the elections will be declared. They can do this soon after the completion of the referendum."

"This was tactical because we didn't know when the new Constitution was going to be completed. It was difficult to provide for the election timelines in the new Constitution for that reason."

The current Constitution provides that the elections should be held within 90 days after the President's proclamation of poll dates.

Mr Mwonzora said the draft provided that future elections would be declared in the last month of the presidential term.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, he said, was expected to conduct voter education while the Constitution-making process was underway.

He said there were clauses in the draft Constitution that were supposed to be incorporated into the Electoral Act in the event that the new Constitution was adopted.

Cabinet, he said, was supposed to quickly sponsor the exercise soon after the adoption of the new Constitution to expedite the process leading to the holding of the elections.

Mr Mwonzora said it was likely that the referendum would be held towards the end of March or early April.

Cde Mangwana said after receiving the draft from the drafters today, they would then take it to Parliament together with their report of the whole Constitution-making process.

Parliamentarians, he said, would just comment on the draft but would not change its contents.

"After that, the President will then make a proclamation calling for the referendum. The Select Committee will also embark on a nationwide massive public awareness programme so that the nation can understand the contents of the draft.

"After that we will then go to the referendum. The GPA says there should be three months between the publication of the draft and the referendum.

"However, it is up to the Principals and President Mugabe to set the date. My own estimation is that we could have the referendum at the end of March or early April," said Cde Mangwana.

After the referendum, he said, the draft would be brought back to Parliament for formal adoption and again the legislators would not change its contents.

The Bill would then be sent to the President for his assent.

It is at that stage that the President can then proclaim election dates.

MDC president Professor Welshman Ncube said PM Tsvangirai was asked by the principals to engage ZEC so that they can say when they will be ready to conduct the referendum.

"Once ZEC advises the Prime Minister of how fast they can do the referendum, the PM will then report back to principals. The President will then be guided by ZEC on when referendum could be held.

"The GPA requires that there should be three months between publication of the draft and the referendum but the parties in Government can agree to shorten the period.

"The most important thing is for ZEC to tell us when they can conduct the referendum. We agreed that the timing of the elections will be decided after the referendum," said Prof Ncube who is also the Minister of Industry and Commerce.

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