23 August 2014

Zimbabwe: President Assents to Electoral Bill

President Mugabe has assented to the Electoral Bill to become law. In a Government Gazette published yesterday, Chief Secretary to the President and Cabinet Dr Misheck Sibanda, announced provisions of the Electoral Act that provides for the filling of National Assembly or Senatorial vacancies with a "qualifying" party member.

"In the event of a vacancy occurring among party - list members of the Senate or of the National Assembly, otherwise that through dissolution of Parliament, the President of the Senate or the Speaker, as the case may be, shall notify the Commission of the vacancy in writing, as soon as possible after he or she becomes aware of it.

"Upon being notified of a vacancy in terms of sub section (3), the Commission shall without delay notify the public of the vacancy by notice in the Gazette and invite the political party in writing to submit the name of a qualified person to fill the vacancy, for which purpose the political party must lodge with the Commission a nomination paper in the prescribed form referred to in sub section 45E(2), countersigned by any two of the designated national office bearers of the party referred to in section 38A (1)(a) (or by such other two office bearers of the political party whom the Commission is satisfied are duly authorised to make the required countersignatures)."

However, law expert Professor Lovemore Madhuku said that provision was invalid and could be challenged in court.

"This clause wants to allow political parties to make new decisions after the election which is not correct," he said.

"If someone challenges it, it will be declared invalid."

According to the Constitution, Prof Madhuku said political parties should exhaust candidates on their party list before making other alternatives.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission had indicated that it would make its position regarding the eligibility of former RBZ governor Dr Gono to become Senator for Manicaland only after President Mugabe assents to the Electoral Amendment Bill.

Some legal experts recently argued that the filling of a senatorial vacancy by a person who was not on the party list would defeat the requirement that Senators are elected under a party system.

They said if the parties were to nominate a person other than the one who is the next qualified one on the party list to fill the vacancy, objections might be raised against that nomination on the grounds that the electoral law intended that the vacancy be filled by the next person on the party list who is qualified to do so.

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