BY KUDAKWASHE TAGWIREI
THE Citizens in Action Southern Africa (Ciasa) has attributed the low voter turnout to lack of trust in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) and poor voter education, among other factors.
In its latest report titled Understanding Voter Apathy in Zimbabwe, Ciasa said since the 1990s, the country has been experiencing episodes of voter apathy, with 31,7% voters recorded in 1996, 47% in 2005, and 42,7% voter turnout in 2008.
The March 26 by-elections that were meant to fill in 28 National Assembly and 122 council seats recorded a 35% voter turnout.
CCC won 19 National Assembly seats, while Zanu PF got nine. The CCC also won 75 local authority seats, while Zanu PF got 47. The cumulative vote was 129 799 for CCC and 128 399 for Zanu PF, giving a 1 400 difference.
“Trust in Zec is at an all-time low (42%) as of the last Afrobarometer of 2021. This is down from an all-time high of 48%. It is clear that Zimbabweans have little trust in the election management body, and this in turn influences their decision to go and vote. Without trust in the election authorities, voting feels like a waste,” the Ciasa report read.
“Huge turnouts characterised the campaign rallies of both the CCC [Citizens Coalition for Change] and Zanu PF parties. However, this did not culminate in equal voter turnout. Political parties tended to hold star rallies as opposed to localised campaigns. This meant that the big numbers at the different venues did not mean the people were from that constituency. Furthermore, rallies are attended by all sorts of people, including unregistered voters, below 18 and non-members of the political organisation.”
On young voters, Ciasa said most of them were registered after the cut-off date.
“However, in general, young voters are largely uncompelled to take part in elections. They see no particular immediate gain to their situation, be it unemployment, education and poverty, among others,” it said.
On voter education, Ciasa said if done properly, it could influence citizens to prepare for elections and to register to vote.
Political analyst Alexander Rusero said the fact that the electoral system in the country gave MDC Alliance leader Douglas Mwonzora the power to recall elected officials was another reason that fuelled voter apathy.
“Mwonzora is a political demagogue who presided over the vandalism of Zimbabwe’s democracy, resulting in voter apathy,” Rusero said.
Another political commentator Rashweat Mukundu said: “The MDC that Morgan Tsvangirai formed is gone and what is left is the shell of the MDC Alliance. The biggest mistake that Mwonzora has made was to align himself with Zanu PF’s agenda and the politics of attrition in which he recalled elected MPs. This resulted in voter apathy and his rejection by voters.”