[JURIST] The Zimbabwean government has published proposed amendments to the Constitution of Zimbabwe [PDF text] that would allow the simultaneous election of the president and both houses of legislature, reforms that critics allege to be an attempt by Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] to weaken the opposition. The proposed amendments would end the existing assembly's term two years early in 2008, reduce the president's term from six years to five, and increase the number of legislators in the House of Assembly from 150 to 210 and the Senate from 66 to 84. In addition, the number of House of Assembly members appointed by the president would decrease from 30 to 10, but the number of senators appointed by the president would go from 16 to 34. The government also proposed Saturday the creation of a "Human Rights Commission," which will consist of 16 members appointed by Mugabe and the parliament, which Mugabe's party, the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) currently controls.
Critics believe that the proposed amendments are the latest efforts by Mugabe to weaken the opposition amid rising discontent with the government. Mugabe, who implemented a controversial white-owned farm seizure program, has been blamed for causing a nation-wide famine and the inflation of over 976.4 percent [CIA backgrounder] as previously productive farms have become barren under inexperienced owners. In May, the Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) [advocacy website] urged [JURIST report] the International Criminal Court [official website] to prosecute Mugabe for his role in Operation Murambatsvina [UN report, PDF], a coordinated effort by the government to remove unlicensed sellers and non-zoned homes from the streets of Harare in 2005. AFP has more.