Election Watch 4-2017

ELECTION WATCH 4/2017

[18th July 2017]

The President’s Options for Proclaiming the 2018 Elections

This bulletin builds on the foundation laid by Election Watch 1/2017 of 10th May [Timeframe for the 2018 General and Presidential Elections].  In that bulletin we explained, referring to the relevant provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act, that the President has the right to fix the polling date by gazetting a proclamation ordering the election.  But he must do so within strict parameters laid down by both the Constitution and the Electoral Act

We described the effect of those parameters as follows:

- Polling days must fall within the 30-day period 23rd July 2018 to 21st August 2018

- Depending on the polling day selected, the President’s proclamation ordering the elections must be gazetted within the period Monday 30th April 2018 to Monday 9th July 2018.

The President Cannot Choose “Any Date in 2018”

It follows that Veritas strongly disagrees with statements recently published in newspapers claiming that the President has a “prerogative” to choose any date in 2018 for the elections and for gazetting his proclamation. 

The President no longer has the discretion he previously enjoyed to force an early election on the country by dissolving Parliament.  That may have been the case under the former Constitution, but it is clearly not possible under the present Constitution.   

Now, as explained in Election Watch 1/2017, only Parliament itself may force an early election by either (1) refusing to pass an annual Appropriation Bill [i.e. Budget] or (2) passing resolutions in both Senate and National Assembly to dissolve Parliament, for which two-thirds majorities are required or (3) passing a vote of no confidence in the Government.

Election Timetable Determinants

By “electoral timetable” we mean the dates for the three main electoral events: -

- proclamation date – date of gazetting of the President’s proclamation ordering the election

- nomination date – date of sitting of the nomination courts [Note: this is last day of the period during which candidates’ nomination papers may be submitted, which starts immediately after the gazetting of the proclamation.]

- polling date – date of polling for National Assembly constituency seats and ward seats on local authority councils

The nomination date and polling date are among the many pieces of information that have to be fixed by the President in the proclamation.

According to the Constitution [section 157(3)] and the Electoral Act [section 38 (1)]—

- from the proclamation date to nomination date  there must be at least 14 days and no more than 21 days.

- from the sitting of the nomination courts [“nomination date”] to polling day there must be at least 30 days and no more than 63 days. 

The President has plenty of leeway when deciding on the electoral timetable, as long as he complies with these time parameters.

Earliest and Latest Dates

 

 

Earliest

 Latest

Proclamation

Monday 30 April 2018

Sunday 8th July 2018

Nomination day

Monday 21 May 2018

Sunday 22nd July 2018

Polling day

Monday 23 July 2018

Tuesday 21st August 2018

 

Note:  Previous practice suggests that the President’s preference is for Saturday polling. 

 

Is there Sufficient Time for New Voter Roll to be Completed?

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has given an assurance that the country-wide Biometric Voter Registration [BVR] exercise will be completed by the end of this year or just into January next year.  They have said they will then take eight weeks to complete the cleaning up, de-duplication, compilation and printing of the voters roll.  And then they have allowed four weeks for the printed roll to be inspected.  This means that ZEC could, but only just, conduct elections based on the very earliest Proclamation date.

 

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