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Why it is not possible for Zimbabwe to have elections in March

A Two-Thirds Majority in Each House Necessary to Dissolve Parliament

There is no special procedure for a dissolution resolution in Standing Orders.  All that would be needed is a motion for dissolution to be carried in each House by at least  “two-thirds of the total membership of each House”. 

Does ZANU-PF have the required majorities in both Houses?

In the Senate  A two-thirds majority is 54 votes out of the 80-member Senate.  ZANU-PF holds 37 seats; MDC-T 21; MDC 2; Chiefs 18; Disabled Representatives 2.   To get 54 votes, ZANU-PF needs the votes of all its own 37 Senators plus 17 others.  [Note: for the Constitution Amendment Bill on 1st August, all 18 Senator Chiefs and both the 2 Senators representing disabled persons voted with ZANU-PF to pass the Bill.]

National Assembly A two-thirds majority requires 180 votes in the 270-member National Assembly. ZANU-PF holds 212 seats – a comfortable two-thirds majority.  

Note:  Although there was difficulty getting the required two-thirds majority for the Constitution Amendment Bill, there would probably not be the same difficulty over a vote for early dissolution as ZANU-PF parliamentarians would be likely to think an early election would increase their chances of being returned to Parliament.

Consequences of An Early Dissolution of Parliament

If both Houses of Parliament pass resolutions to dissolve Parliament, an inexorable chain of events is set in motion leading to a general election:-

•             the President must by proclamation dissolve Parliament [section 143(2)]

•             the President must by proclamation call and set dates for a general election to be held “not more than ninety days after Parliament passed the resolutions” [section 144(2)].

Note: The President must consult the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission before fixing the dates for the general election [section 144(3)] 

A Possible Timetable for a 3rd March Election

If the rationale for an early election is for an already prepared ZANU-PF to make things as difficult as possible for all other parties and/or coalitions, a fast-as-possible election programme would make sense [i.e. with as few delays as feasible between proclamation and polling].  Hence the suggestions of an early March election.

The earliest day in March 2018 for elections would be Saturday 3rd March [elections are normally held on a Saturday.]  This would mean that the dissolution vote in Parliament would have to be no earlier than 4th December 2017 [because, as already noted, there must not be more than 90 days between the vote and the election].  And the election proclamation following the vote could not be later than 18th January 2018 [because under section 157(3) of the Constitution there must not be less than 44 days between the proclamation of an election and polling day].

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