PRESIDENT Robert Mugabe is under increasing pressure to declare an election date before the end of this month or risk being in contempt of court, a respected thinktank has warned.
Last year, Mugabe sought two court applications to postpone by-elections in three constituencies on the basis that a date for elections would have been set by the end of March.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai recently announced that he had agreed with the Zanu PF leader that the elections would be held in July.
But according to a paper by Derek Matyszak of the Research and Advocacy Unit on the ongoing constitutional reforms, Mugabe has few options when it comes to proclamation of election dates.
“A court order, which already reflects two applications for a postponement, requires the President to gazette the dates for three of several outstanding by-elections before the 31st March, 2013,” reads part of the report.
“Although the order only pertains to by-elections in three constituencies, the postponement of the by-elections has been granted on the basis of the President’s assertions that he intends to set the dates for a general election before the 31st March, 2013.”
A referendum on the new constitution will only be held on March 16 and the inclusive government is obliged to organise the elections using the new charter.
Considering that the country has scant resources for elections, it is highly unlikely that Mugabe will only set a date for elections in the three constituenciessince there are several vacant seats.
In this regard, the nomination courts should sit within 21 days of the proclamation of the election dates, with polls expected to be held within 63 days.
This means the most likely date for elections will be June 23.
“His (Mugabe) proclamation in this regard must set the date for the sitting of the nomination courts no later than 21 days from the date of the proclamation and the elections must take place no later than 63 days after the sitting of the nomination courts,” reads the report.
“This makes the latest date for the elections, if a further postponement is not sought or the President is not to be held in contempt of court, the 23rd June 2013.”
If the President does not seek another postponement, Parliament will automatically be dissolved on June 29.
Three legislators, expelled from the Welshman Ncube-led MDC, last year approached the courts seeking to force Mugabe to declare a date for by-elections. Mugabe was then compelled to declare an election date, but he sought a postponement arguing that he would set a general election date this March.
Meanwhile, the legislature will also be hard pressed to come up with a system of proportional representation that will be used if the draft constitution is adopted.
Matyszak said while the system of proportional representation seemed straightforward, there were a number of complexities that arose and the negotiators in the inclusive government might be forced to hurriedly negotiate the issue before the dissolution of Parliament.
He advised that since an Act of Parliament had to be passed for the adoption of a system of proportional representation, the Global Political Agreement negotiators should start debating immediately on the format to be chosen, as there was not much time before the dissolution of the legislature.
Under the system of proportional representation, 60 Senators will be chosen according to the percentage of votes their respective parties will receive in the election. So if a party wins 50% of the vote in a particular province, they will contribute three members to the Senate for that province. Each province will have six seats in the Senate, chosen through proportional representation.