Zim 2023 general elections in August
AFTER the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) submitted the final delimitation report to President Emmerson Mnangagwa, which in terms of the constitution he must publish within 14 days in a proclamation in the Government Gazette declaring the names and boundaries of wards and constituencies, general elections are now almost certainly going to be held around 26 August.
All things considered, the election window is now between 17 August and 25 August. The constitutional window is between 28 July and 26 August.
Barring any unforeseen events, the electoral process and road map to the polls are now leading to elections around the third to the last week of August. The current Parliament’s lifespan expires on 26 August. This means elections must be held on or before 25 August.
In terms of the constitution, polling must take place not more than 30 days before 26 August, meaning not before 28 July.
Factoring in the delimitation process, the elections are now bound to be around 17-25 August.
Section 161(2) of the constitution says delimitation must be completed at least six months before polling day if it is to be used for those elections — unless Parliament is dissolved early.
Failure to do that automatically leads to elections under the 2007/2008 delimitation boundaries, which will be unrealistic given that the constitution says delimitation must take place every 10 years – the current one is due this year under the 2013 constitution — and that so many things have changed demographically, socially and even physically.
The law stipulates that the next general elections be held between the 28 July and the 26 August.
Veritas, a grouping of lawyers dealing with constitutional and legislative issues, says in its latest report that if the current delimitation report is to be used in the next elections it must be published between 28 January — for polls to be held on 28 July — and 26 February for elections by 26 August.
The report submitted to Mnangagwa on 3 February is already too late for July elections, and the deadline for August polls is fast approaching. Given all this, the possibility of early elections is almost out. The likelihood of Parliament dissolving itself early to cause early elections is far-fetched.
However, Veritas factored that in.
“Possibility of An Early Election? In our Election Watch 5/2022 of the 17th November 2022, we looked at the circumstances in which general elections can be held early,” it says in its report.
“We said that if the Senate and the National Assembly, sitting separately, were to resolve by two-thirds majorities of their total membership that Parliament should be dissolved, then the President would be obliged by section 143(2) of the constitution to issue a proclamation dissolving Parliament. In that event, in terms of section 158(1)(b) of the constitution, a general election would have to be held within 90 days after the last resolution was passed.
“When we issued that bulletin we thought an early election was unlikely but recent events suggest we may have been wrong. There are straws in the wind which may point to an early election. Fast-tracking of government business in Parliament. On Tuesday, at the request of the minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, the National Assembly resolved to suspend its standing orders for a week so that government business could be fast-tracked through Parliament. Government may be trying to get important Bills through Parliament quickly so that Parliament can close for an early election. Some of the Bills could be seen as strengthening the ruling party’s control grip on society in advance of an election: the PVO Amendment Bill and the ‘Patriot Bill’, for example.”
In terms of section 143(1) of the constitution, Parliament is elected for a five-year term which runs from the date on which the President-elect is sworn in and assumes office in terms of section 94(1)(a) of the constitution — 26 August 2018.
After the 2013 elections, the late former president Robert Mugabe was sworn in on 22 August 2013, and Parliament’s tenure ended on 21 August 2018.
Section 144(1) of the constitution says that where Parliament has not earlier passed resolutions to dissolve in terms of section 143(2), the President must by proclamation call and set dates for general elections to be held within a period prescribed in section 158.
In terms of section 158(1)(a) of the constitution, general elections must be held so that polling takes place not more than 30 days before the expiry of the five-year period specified in section 143.
The current delimitation process — the first after the 2013 constitution came into effect — is now dictating the pace of political and electoral events.
After delineating wards and constituencies, Zec submitted to Mnangagwa the preliminary report on 26 December 2022.
Within 14 days, it was tabled before Parliament for debate. It was then sent to the President for him to make his submissions and then back to Zec for finalisation. Zec then sent Mnangagwa the final report on Friday for publication in 14 days.
This means Mnangagwa must publish it in a proclamation in the Government Gazette declaring the names and boundaries of wards and constituencies by 17 February, which will be within the 26 February deadline.
That leaves the elections window open between 17 August and 25 August, barring political contingency: The unexpected, the accidental or the unforeseen.