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Fri Sep 19 13:50:59 SAST 2014

Zim charter curbs powers of president

Reuters | 30 January, 2013 00:000 Comments
Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (R) and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai address a media conference at State House in the capital Harare.
Image by: PHILIMON BULAWAYO / REUTERS

A draft constitution in Zimbabwe that paves the way for an election this year curbs presidential powers and strengthens cabinet and parliament, which have been weakened under veteran President Robert Mugabe's rule.

According to a final copy of the draft charter obtained by Reuters yesterday, the president will be required to exercise power in consultation with the cabinet, with decrees requiring its majority backing.

The existing constitution allows the president alone to issue decrees that can have force of law for up to six months.

The new document also limits the president to two five-year terms, starting from the next election. This will not be applied retrospectively so Mugabe, who has been in power for 32 years, could technically rule for another two terms.

Last week, the country's two most powerful parties, Mugabe's Zanu-PF and the Movement for Democratic Change of rival Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, said they supported the draft.

If passed by parliament, it will be put to a national referendum between March and April, a crucial step before elections this year.

Presidential powers to declare emergencies and dissolve parliament have been diluted in the draft, which requires two-thirds of all MPs to back any such measure in a vote.

Some civil rights have been expanded, with clauses on freedom of the press, access to information, political choice and activity as well as prisoners' rights. The draft retains the ban on same-sex marriage. It also keeps the death penalty, but only for "murder committed in aggravating circumstances" and makes exceptions for women and people aged below 21 or above 70.

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