Implications of date proclamation without electoral amendment

President Emmerson Mnangagwa Wednesday, 31 May 2023, declared through SI 85 of 2023 the elections date for the 2023 harmonized elections as 23 August 2023, with 2 October as the day of the runoff should it be required.

The same proclamation also fixed the venues for the sitting of the nomination court for Parliament and Councils as 21 June 2023 across the country, while also providing the framework of the election of the Chiefs’ Council. The proclamation of the election date importantly came without the passing of an envisaged Electoral Amendment Bill, which was still at the committee stage in Parliament.

Instead, it appears Parliament controlled by the ruling party which has two thirds majority prioritised the passing of the controversial Patriotic Bill, which variously closed the democratic space. The proclamation of the polling date before the passing of the Electoral Amendment Bill 2022 means that the amended Act should it be passed will no longer apply for the purposes of the 2023 elections.

This naturally brought into focus the fate of the provisions brought by Constitutional Amendment 2, which provides for the extension of the National Assembly Women’s Quota, introduced women’s quota in councils and a National Assembly Youth Quota. The understanding however is that these clauses and those related to provincial councils will be used for the 2023 elections on account of them having been adequately covered by the constitution.

This means that when the nomination court sits, party-lists will have to cater for these proportional representation positions. The proclamation states “that the nomination of party-list candidates for the Senate, the National Assembly and provincial councils shall take place on the same date and venue as the nomination for the constituency National Assembly candidates.”

However, the proclamation put paid to any hopes that there would be political reforms coming through the amendment of the electoral act for the 2023 elections. This should not mean that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) cannot take actions that make the running of elections transparent in the spirit of the Constitution’s stipulation that elections must be “free, fair and credible.”