Zimbabweans approve new constitution
Posted Tuesday, March 19 2013 at 18:04
Zimbabwe overwhelmingly voted to accept a new constitution, paving the way for elections expected later this year.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced that 95 per cent of voters in Saturday’s referendum voted for the new constitution, which received the support of the three main parties in the inclusive government.
ZEC said 3,079,966 had voted for the new constitution, while 179,000 had voted against it. There were 56,627 spoiled ballots.
The turnout was just more than half of registered voters and above analysts’ expectations, who had forecast apathy.
A new constitution was one of the key elements in the 2008 power sharing deal and is considered a key step towards holding of credible elections.
Under the new draft, presidential terms shall be limited to two five year terms, but this will not apply retrospectively.
This leaves the door open for long time ruler, President Robert Mugabe (89) to contest at the next elections and he is eligible to rule until he is 99.
President Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai agreed on a coalition government after a disputed election in 2008.
In forming the coalition government, they agreed on a roadmap ahead of new elections, with a new constitution underpinning the reforms.
The new constitution provides for a wide ranging Bill of Rights, but homosexuality will remain outlawed in the southern African nation.
Under the new charter, the Prime Minister’s office will be abolished, while parliament’s powers are enhanced.
However, critics argue that too much power remains vested in the presidency.
The referendum has been praised by regional observers and the United States, which described it as credible.
President Mugabe is now expected to sign the new constitution into law before preparations for new elections begin.
The Southern African Development Community has been pushing for a new constitution among many other reforms in Zimbabwe before new elections are held.