HARARE – Zimbabwe’s general elections must be held by August 21 2018, when the national legislative assembly’s five-year term expires, according to the new Constitution.
Section 158 of the new Constitution states that “a general election must be held so that polling takes place not more than . . . 30 days before the expiry of the five-year period specified in section 143”.
President Robert Mugabe must set an election date before the current Parliament expires.
“The president must by proclamation call and set dates for a general election to be held within the period prescribed in section 158,” the Constitution says.
This means the election would have to be held at the earliest on July 23, 2018 and the latest on August 21, 2018.
The polls will be the second under a new Constitution, approved in a referendum in 2013, that curbed Mugabe’s wide-sweeping powers.
The new charter sets a maximum of two five-year terms for the president, with Mugabe currently serving the first term after his controversial re-election in the disputed 2013 vote.
The nonagenarian, in power since independence from Britain in 1980, has been endorsed by his party as its candidate for election, when he will be 94, and could still theoretically rule for one more term.
Section 143 (1) of the new Constitution states: “Parliament is elected for a five-year term which runs from the date on which the president-elect is sworn in and assumes office.”
Mugabe, Africa’s oldest leader, was sworn in on August 22, 2013, amid condemnation from opponents and the West that the vote was stolen.
This means the five-year term of Parliament ends at midnight on August 21, 2018.
The long-time ruler has expressed confidence that his party will win the proposed elections, telling his central committee last month that the opposition was in disarray — and that Zanu PF was enjoying the squabbling within the opposition ranks.
“The opposition is in a quagmire . . . they have tried this and that to get together . . . talking about a grand coalition, but they will be in for a grand defeat as they continue to split,” Mugabe said.
According to the latest findings of an Afrobarometer survey, the prospect of a grand coalition finds support among a plurality of Zimbabweans at 45 percent.
The opposition has been at its feeblest since its heavy, albeit controversial, defeat in the 2013 elections, when Zanu PF achieved a more than two-thirds parliamentary majority, which it has increased via by-elections boycotted by the mainstream MDC.