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Zimbabwe: Election Laws Amendment Bill

(Dec. 2, 2007) Upon reconvening on November 20, 2007, the Parliament of Zimbabwe was to consider, among other legislation, an Electoral Laws Amendment Bill that would establish the framework for the March 2008 joint presidential, parliamentary, and municipal elections. Critics contend that the bill is aimed at furthering President Robert Mugabe's re-election bid and may gerrymander for Mugabe to provide for an electoral body that would be packed with the President's cronies.

Under the bill, the responsibility for managing the voters' register would be transferred to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, and security force personnel would be barred from being seconded to or hired by the ZEC. However, there is concern that "ongoing voter registration is being presided over by Registrar Tobaiwa Mudede, an alleged proxy of Mugabe whom he has helped through manipulation of previous elections." The government has declined to compile a new register despite complaints that the current one "is in a state of shambles." (Zimbabwe: Parliament to Reportedly Pass Election Law Favoring Mugabe in 08 Polls, THE ZIMBABWE TIMES, Nov. 19, 2007, Open Source Center No. AFP20071120534009.)

The bill also authorizes the ZEC to carry out the demarcation of constituencies, a task previously handled by the Delimitation Commission, but there has been a public outcry over the appointment of senior government officials to the ZEC, which is supposed to be an independent body. In the view of Dr. Lovemore Madhuku, a constitutional law expert and Chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly, the current ZEC, which will oversee the 2008 elections, will not permit any opposition party to form a new government: "[w]hat Zimbabweans will witness is a well stage-managed election in which president Robert Mugabe will retain his post as the head of government …. At best it might allow an insignificant number of MPS from the opposition to win in urban constituencies." (Id.; see also Electoral Laws Amendment Bill, 2000: An Analysis by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, Zimbabwe Election Support Network Web site, Nov. 28, 2007, available at http://www.zesn.org.zw/publications/publication_138.doc.)