Zimbabwe’s amended Electoral Act could be gazetted as early as Friday next week clearing the way for harmonized elections, Parliamentary watchdog, Veritas, says.
The Electoral Amendment Bill was rushed through the National Assembly this week and now needs to go through the Senate and if approved it goes to the President for signature before being gazetted.
“The Bill could well be completed and gazetted by next Friday 18th May and if not then shortly thereafter,” Veritas says.
Zimbabwe should hold its elections before 21 August according to the constitution.
It is not clear whether the amended act will incorporate all the sticking points raised by the opposition but President Emmerson Mnangagwa has promised to hold, free, fair and credible elections whose outcome will be accepted by the international community.
Presidential spokesman and Information secretary George Charamba said the coming elections are about restoring international re-engagement and legitimacy.
“This election is about restoring international re-engagement and legitimacy; that is where we are. It must be flawless, it must be transparent, it must be free, it must be fair, it must meet international standards, it must be violence free and therefore it must be universally endorsed because it is an instrument of foreign policy. It’s about re-engagement and legitimacy; we are playing politics at a higher level,” Charamba said.
Veritas explains the various scenarios the Amendment Bill will have to go through.
The Electoral Amendment Bill Through the National Assembly
The amendments made by the National Assembly on 8th May [see Election Watch 8/2018 of 9th May were approved by the Parliamentary Legal Committee on Wednesday 9th May. They were then formally adopted by the National Assembly at Thursday‘s House sitting and the Bill was given its Third Reading [a mere formality – the Bill is not read out in its entirety, there is just a vote to finally approve the Bill before it goes to the Senate].
The Bill Now with the Senate
The Bill has now been transmitted to the Senate where it will probably be dealt with on Tuesday 16th May. Amendments can be made by the Senate but they would have to be cleared by the PLC and then sent back to the National Assembly for approval.
The amendments made by the National Assembly have transformed and greatly enlarged the Bill. It now contains 37 clauses as compared to the mere 6 of the original Bill gazetted in September last year. The amendments have been incorporated into a consolidated version of the Bill which will make the Bill as it stands now easier for Senators to read.
The Opposition could well try and get through some of its amendments which it did not get through the National Assembly. Any success would depend on how many members of the Senate parties could mobilise to attend the Senate sitting.
If no amendments are made in the Senate it can then go straight to the President for signature and then it will be gazetted as an Act. This could be fast tracked and done within a day or so.
If the Senate Amends the Bill
If amendments are made in the Senate they will have to go through the Parliamentary Legal Committee – it will probably be on standby and this can be done quickly. But, the Bill will then have to go back to the National Assembly and the amendments either accepted or rejected. If accepted the Bill as amended goes to the President for signature and is then gazetted as an Act.
If the National Assembly rejects or alters a Senate amendment, the Senate has to meet and either withdraw that amendment or agree to the alteration. [They have ninety days to agree or withdraw and it they have not withdrawn or agreed to alteration by then, the National Assembly can pass a resolution to send it to the President for signature with National Assembly amendments and any Senate amendments National Assembly has agreed to.]
The Minister will certainly not in this case allow the Senate its ninety days and would pressure the Senate to agree with the National Assembly. [ZANU-PF plus Chiefs who usually vote with ZANU-PF have the majority in the Senate.]
When is the Bill Likely to Become Law
The Bill could well be completed and gazetted by next Friday 18th May and if not then shortly thereafter.