Voter apathy continues to mar by elections

Low electoral turnout has become common in the country’s by-elections

Zimbabwe held by-elections on April 27 2024 to fill vacancies that arose in two National Assembly constituencies following the resignations of Allan Markham Rusty and Fadzayi Mahere, the August 2023 MPs elected officials representing Harare East and Mount Pleasant constituencies respectively.

In the run-up to the by-elections, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) observed the pre-electoral environment.

 On election day, Zesn deployed a total of 107 observers (95 static and 12 mobile observers) who observed the election day processes.

Observer findings helped Zesn’s assessments in determining whether elections adhered to the set legal framework.

For the Harare East by-election, two (2) candidates (Kiven Mutimbanyoka-Zanu PF and Ropafadzo Cynthia Cheza-independent) successfully filed nomination papers to contest the constituency seat.

For Mount Pleasant, three candidates (George Mashavave-Zanu PF, Naison Mamuse — independent and Brian Ticky-independent) successfully submitted nomination papers.

Aspiring candidates in the two constituencies utilised various campaign strategies to appeal to the voters. Chief among these were social media, posters, door-to-door and rallies.

Zanu PF campaigns in the two constituencies were attended by senior party leadership, to drum up support for the candidates.

Zanu PF party conducted the most visible campaigns during the campaign season.

Zesn volunteers observed the nomination court sitting that was conducted on  March 262024.

The volunteers also observed the political environment and various key stages of the electoral process including campaigning, voting, counting and announcement of results.

Additionally, Zesn trained and deployed observers on election day.

 A total of 107 observers, comprising 95 static observers and 12 mobile observers were assigned to observe polling processes in the two constituencies.

The election day observer deployment strategy positioned Zesn observers at constituency collation centres to observe the results collation process.

To facilitate consistent reporting, all observers used a standard checklist to uniformly collect and submit their observations and findings.

Zesn observers reported that the political environment was calm and peaceful in both constituencies during the campaigns and on election day, save for a lone incident where, according to social media platforms, Cheza, the Harare East independent candidate was assaulted together with members of her campaign team, on election day.

According to the official results, Mashavave and Mutimbanyoka of the Zanu PF party were declared winners in Mount Pleasant and Harare East, respectively.

Both constituencies were won by Zanu PF candidates with comfortable leads.

 For instance, Mutimbanyoka won the by-election with a lead of 1 559 votes, while Mashavave won with a lead of 2 260 votes.

Whilst Harare East had predominantly been won by opposition parties since 2000, Zanu PF previously won the seat in the 2015 by-election when Terrence Mukupe of Zanu PF was declared the winner in a by-election where the opposition MDC-T who had been at the helm of the constituency did not participate.

Mt Pleasant had also been an opposition stronghold since 2008, with Zanu PF winning the seat in 2013 when Jameson Timba of the opposition MDC-T (3 817) lost to Jaisson Passade of Zanu PF .

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) made significant improvements in the quality of signage used to give direction to the polling stations, and the legibility of the voter rolls posted outside polling stations.

A peaceful environment was observed during the campaigns.

National Assembly elections are vital for democratic governance.

They shape legislative bodies that create and amend laws, represent citizens' interests, and enable accountability.

These elections empower citizens to influence policies, national direction, and the distribution of power, thereby impacting the lives of all citizens.

By-elections remain a legal requirement whenever vacancies arise in the national assembly and within local authorities.

Zesn recommends the following, based on its observations:

  • Members of the public are encouraged to fully utilise their constitutionally guaranteed civil and political rights by, among other things, participating in voting when elections are conducted.
  • There is a need for the Zec to continue increasing the font for displayed voters’ rolls to cater for those with visual impairment. - Zesn

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