Consultation with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC]
Section 144(3) of the Constitution lays down that the dates for the election must be fixed by the President “after consultation with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission”. Section 339(2) explains that this means ZEC must be afforded a reasonable opportunity to make recommendations or representations about proposed dates and that the President must give careful consideration to any such recommendations and representations although he is not obliged to follow them. The need for this consultation with ZEC is repeated in section 38(1) of the Electoral Act.
Note: The President is under no legal or constitutional obligation to consult with Cabinet. Section 110(2)(e) of the Constitution as read together with section 110(6) makes it clear that the President’s responsibility for calling elections is an executive function in the exercise of which he is not obliged to act on Cabinet advice. The President is, however, free to consult Cabinet if he wishes to.
Dissolution of the Present Parliament
It will not be for the President to dissolve Parliament, in the election proclamation or by any other means. The dissolution of Parliament will occur automatically in terms of section 143(1) of the Constitution, which provides as follows—
“Parliament stands dissolved at midnight on the day before the first polling day in the next general election called in terms of section 144”.
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Although the Constitution no longer allows for ordinary dissolution of Parliament by Presidential Proclamation, and provides that normally Parliament should serve out its five-year terms, Section 143 of the Constitution provides for an early dissolution of Parliament in the following exceptional circumstances:
1. a refusal by Parliament to pass an annual Appropriation Bill [the Budget] [section 143(3)]
2. the passing by a least two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly and the Senate, sitting separately, of resolutions to dissolve Parliament [section 143(2)]
3. a Parliamentary vote of no confidence in the Government [section 109]
In the first event the President may dissolve Parliament and proclaim a general election to be held within 90 days of dissolution or instruct a Minister to change the Budget;
In the second one he must dissolve Parliament within 14 days and proclaim a General Election to be held within 90 days of dissolution;
In the third circumstance he must either replace all his Ministers or dissolve Parliament and proclaim an election; [if he does not do so within 14 days, Parliament is automatically dissolved and the President must proclaim a general election to be held within 90 days of the automatic dissolution]
Note: The five-year term would not be prematurely terminated if President Mugabe were to cease to be President before the end of the term. In that event, there are two stages provided for by the Constitution—
1. Acting President – the Vice-President who last acted as President takes over until his party [ZANU-PF] notifies the Speaker of Parliament who it has nominated as a successor [notification must be within 90 days],
2. Substantive President – the nominee notified to the Speaker by ZANU-PF must assume office as President by taking the Presidential oath of office within the next 48 hours before the Chief Justice. The new President then holds office until the swearing-in of the person elected at the next general election in July or August 2018.