A WIN by President Robert Mugabe in the anticipated presidential election run-off against the MDC’s Morgan Tsvangirai will render the country ungovernable given that there is now has a hung parliament, analysts have said.
The analysts said in a hung parliament there would be two possibilities for Mugabe if he were to cling on to power – form a coalition government or dissolve parliament.
In legislative language, a hung parliament is one in which no one political party has an outright majority.
This situation is normal in many legislatures with proportional representation such as Germany or Italy which allow for parliamentary coalitions to obtain a majority, or in legislatures with strong regional parties.
According to the results of the March 29 elections, no party won an absolute majority in either the House of Assembly or Senate.
In the House of Assembly, the Tsvangirai-led MDC won 99 seats, Zanu PF 97 and the other MDC headed by Arthur Mutambara 10. Another seat went to independent candidate Jonathan Moyo, who was backed in the polls by the MDC-Tsvangirai.
The two MDC factions have since entered a legislative pact and now have a combined 110 seats against Zanu PF’s 97. Moyo is reportedly part to the agreement. In the senate, the combined MDC and Zanu PF are tied with 30 seats each and it is the result of the presidential run-off that would decide which party will control the chamber.
The analysts argued that it will be the outstanding 33 senate seats that will be crucial to both Mugabe and Tsvangirai.
Whoever wins the run-off will have the power to appoint 10 provincial governors and five other non-constituency senators. The other 18 seats would be occupied by traditional chiefs.
“Traditional chiefs have over the years been loyal to Mugabe and whatever the outcome of the run-off we expect them to back Zanu PF,” political scientist Michael Mhike said. “That means if Tsvangirai wins he will have 45 seats in the Senate and Mugabe 48. If you combine the Senate and House of Assembly seats, the MDC would end up with 155 seats and Zanu PF 145.”
Mhike said in the unlikely event that Mugabe romps to victory, Zanu PF would have 63 seats in the Senate against the MDC’s 30. If the House of Assembly and the Senate seats were combined Mugabe would have 160 seats and the MDC 140.
“In that scenario, Mugabe will have the majority in both houses combined but will not be able to pass laws because the MDC will be controlling the House of Assembly, and he will be in charge of the Senate,” Mhike explained.
He argued that even if Tsvangirai wins, he would not be able to pass laws in the Senate as Zanu PF would be in the majority.
“We have a hung parliament and in such a situation there is need for cooperation between the parties in parliament. If there is no cooperation, then the country will be ungovernable,” Mhike added.
A Zimbabwean lawyer based abroad, Alex Magaisa, last week said if Mugabe wins the run-off, he might use his victory to deal with his succession problem in Zanu PF.
He argued that since he would have a majority of 160 parliamentarians in both the Senate and the House of Assembly he will resign to pave way for the two houses to sit as an electoral college to elect his successor.
“The new provision is important because the political party that has a majority of parliamentarians who constitute the electoral college will determine the next president,” wrote Magaisa in a weekly newspaper. “This is where the combined parliament becomes acutely relevant.”
He said the 33 remaining senate seats were crucial because they offer “a great opportunity for Zanu PF to roll out its succession plan and perhaps find a way for Mugabe to extricate himself from the mess on his own terms.”
University of Zimbabwe political science professor Eldred Masunungure said a Mugabe victory would render the country ungovernable.
“There is no way Mugabe can rule when his party is a minority in parliament,” Masunungure said. “He will be in office, but he will not be in power and will not rule effectively in such a scenario and a government he will create will be dysfunctional.”
He argued that the only option for Mugabe would be to dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections hoping he would win the polls.
“President Mugabe’s choices are limited, but he can dissolve parliament and call for fresh elections in the hope that he will garner more seats than the opposition,” Masunungure argued.
The analysts argued that it would be impossible for Mugabe to push new legislation through parliament, as the MDC would not assent to any Bill in the House of Assembly.
Moreover, the analysts argued that the MDC could refuse to pass Money/Finance Bills and this would be tantamount to a vote of no confidence in the president and government, which must culminate in the dissolution of parliament.
“If President Mugabe has to pass laws such as the Finance Bill and if parliament rejects it, then it would be difficult to rule the country in parliament’s current state,” Masunungure averred.
Even one of Mugabe’s confidants, Reserve Bank governor Gideon Gono, last week said the legislative impasse would result in retrogressive tugs of war in parliament and suggested that there should be a pre-run-off pact between the MDC and Zanu PF that puts the interests of the country first. He warned that the attendant hung parliament was such that no individual political party could easily transmit the interests of voters through legislation “without having to go through the inevitable process of winning favour and support from the other parties.”
“The risk is, therefore, that critical pieces of progressive legislation, may suffer needless blockades on the altars of political expediency, whilst the business and effectiveness of governance is seriously compromised,” Gono said.
“In the likely ‘stop-go-mode’ it is not far-fetched to postulate the possibility of the legislative arms failing to pass national budgets, supplementary budgets and other emergency funding programmes, which would throw the country into serious governance problems, resulting in more pressure on the central bank as ministries would naturally fail to discharge their duties without financial resources.”
The RBZ czar suggested that consideration be given to the establishment of a “mutually binding pre-run-off pact” spelling out the expected behaviour of both the MDC and Zanu PF regardless of who emerges the victor in the second round.
Clerk of Parliament Austin Zvoma emphasised that the passage of legislation required the participation of both the Senate and the House of Assembly.
“Thus, in terms of Paragraph 1 of Schedule 4 to the Constitution, any Bill, except Money/Finance Bill, can originate in either house and, subject to the Constitution,” Zvoma said in a recent analysis of the bicameral parliament, “each house is free to make any amendments to any Bill that comes before it.
By Constantine Chimakure