CONSTITUTION WATCH 2/2018
[25th September 2018]
Now elections are over Veritas is continuing its series of bulletins on implementation of the Constitution
Leader of the Opposition
On several occasions, according to reports, the President has offered the post of Leader of the Opposition to Mr Nelson Chamisa. Most recently, in an interview with an American news agency in New York, he is reported to have said:
“We are going to introduce the office of the leader of the opposition in Parliament. … Under the former administration, there was no formal recognition of the opposition leader but now under my administration, we are embracing the Commonwealth approach to parliamentary democracy where we recognise the leader of the opposition who is given certain conditions and perks in Parliament.”
The reports raise two questions:
- What is meant by Leader of the Opposition?
- Can such a post be given to Mr Chamisa?
Leader of the Opposition in Westminster-style Parliaments
In countries that have adopted the Westminster model of parliamentary government, the post of Leader of the Opposition is a semi-official parliamentary post given to the leader of the main opposition party or group in Parliament. The post is largely symbolic, but the symbolism is very important:
- It confers legitimacy on the opposition, by recognising that differing views must be permitted in every democratic system. In a parliamentary democracy those different views must be heard and respected in Parliament.
- It reminds the opposition – the main opposition party, anyway – that they are part of the system of governance and have responsibilities towards it. In Britain the title of the leader of the opposition is “Leader of Her Majesty’s most loyal opposition”, a reminder that the opposition must be loyal to the State.
- It is an acknowledgement that an essential feature of a multi-party democracy [which Zimbabwe aspires to be] is that governments change. Parties cannot rule forever. A party that is now in opposition may become the governing party at the next election.
Continued next page