LEGISLATIVE watchdog, Veritas, has called on Parliament to expeditiously push through electoral law reforms before President Emmerson Mnangagwa proclaims election dates, arguing that doing so on the eve of the polls would be unconstitutional.
BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
Responding to State media reports, which suggested that the government has until the eve of polling day, to push through the Electoral Amendment Bill, Veritas said the deadline for electoral law changes was the day the election proclamation was gazetted.
“Why is that suggestion wrong? Why is it wrong to say that the government has until the eve of polling day to reform the electoral law? Because leaving reform so late is not permitted by our Constitution,” the watchdog said.
Veritas said the Constitution imposed a special, earlier deadline for passing of electoral laws and if the government was committed to having free, fair and credible elections, it must abide by the Constitution.
The watchdog said Section 157(5) of the Constitution says: “After an election has been called, no change to the electoral law or to any other law relating to elections has effect for the purpose of that election.”
Veritas added that an election was “called” when the President’s proclamation ordering the holding of the election was published in the Government Gazette.
“This means that the Electoral Amendment Bill currently stalled in the National Assembly must be passed by both Houses of Parliament, signed by the President and published in the Government Gazette as an Act of Parliament before the President’s proclamation calling for the election [if the government intends the Bill’s changes to the Electoral Act to apply to the forthcoming election,” it said.
Veritas said the same deadline would apply to new regulations made under the Electoral Act or changes to present regulations, whether they add to, amend, replace or repeal regulations already in place and changes to "any other law relating to elections”.
It would also apply to changes that the government may be tempted to make using the Presidential Powers (Temporary Measures) Act [which Veritas and many others are convinced is invalid for inconsistency with the Constitution].
“It is possible, however, to state the earliest possible date [A[April 30]nd the latest possible date [J[July 8]ermitted by the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
Parliament was recalled a few weeks ago and standing orders were amended to fast-track the Electoral Amendment Bill, but the process was stalled as Zanu PF legislators claimed they were still tied up by party primary elections.