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Zimbabwe parliament passes constitutional amendments bill

[JURIST] The Zimbabwean Parliament unanimously passed amendments to the Zimbabwean constitution [PDF text] Thursday that essentially give President Robert Mugabe [BBC profile] the authority to appoint his successor. Both Mugabe's ruling party, the Zimbabwe African National Union - Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) [Wikipedia backgrounder] and the main opposition party, Movement for Democratic Change [party website], ultimately supported the measures with all 111 MPs present voting in favor of its adoption.

Floor consideration of the draft constitutional amendment bill concluded Tuesday after only one day of debate [JURIST report]. MPs signalled further support for the amendments in a preliminary vote [JURIST report] Wednesday, setting the stage for Thursday's passage. The changes allow parliament to appoint a new president should the incumbent step down before the end of his term; there is speculation that Mugabe will step down before elections are held so that the ZANU-PF will be able to select the next president. The constitutional reforms also allow the simultaneous election of the president and both houses of the legislature. Critics allege that the reforms are intended to weaken the opposition. The amendments will 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 will decrease from 30 to 10, but the number of senators appointed by the president will go from 16 to 34. BBC News has more.

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