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Zesn blames recalls of opposition members for low voter turnout

by Staff reporter
06 Feb 2024 at 04:38hrs | Views
THE Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has blamed low voter turnout in the just ended by-elections on incessant recalls of opposition members.

The election watchdog said the low number of voters at polling stations was an indication of voter protest.

The observation comes at a time when self-proclaimed Citizens Coalition for Change interim secretary-general Sengezo Tshabangu has been on a rampage recalling 15 CCC lawmakers and 17 councillors alleging that they had ceased to be members of the opposition party.

The latest recalls triggered the need for by-elections to choose new representatives in Mkoba North, Goromonzi South, Seke, Pelandaba-Tshabalala, Zvimba East and Chegutu West constituencies thereby drawing the ire of the public and several civic organisations which called for the amendment of the recall clause.

In its preliminary assessment report for the just ended by-elections, Zesn said it noted with concern the decline in voter participation, which could be seen as a form of voter protest, particularly in response to recalls.

"The influence of recalls on the democratic character of elections is apparent in the decreasing voter participation witnessed in by-elections subsequent to the 2023 harmonised elections," the report read.

According to the election watchdog, voter apathy erodes the core principles of democracy.

"Moreover, inadequate intra-party democracy, procedural deficiencies, and shortcomings in the regulations governing the selection of candidates could be recognised as elements contributing to the low turnout, impacting voters' motivation and active participation in electoral processes."

Zesn also said although section 67 of the Constitution provided the right of every Zimbabwean to vote, there appeared to be a limited uptake in exercising this constitutional right among eligible voters in the country, particularly during by elections.

"Observers reported that there was a low turnout of voters exercising their constitutional right to select their preferred representatives in the six (6) National Assembly and local authority by-elections.

"Voter turnout was very low across all the six constituencies. Overall, Mkoba North recorded 14,6% voter turnout. In Pelandaba-Tshabalala turnout stood at 11,73% and in Goromonzi South 18,1% cast their ballots. In comparison to the other three constituencies, voter turnout was relatively higher in Chegutu West with 33,5%, Zvimba East 31,6% and Seke 30,18%."

Zesn also said there was a rise in the  number of rejected ballots that were recorded against the backdrop of low voter turnout, indicating  voter fatigue or protest.

"For example, Goromonzi South recorded 369 rejected votes, Seke (313) Zvimba East (262) Pelandaba-Tshabalala (212) Chegutu West (191) and Mkoba North with 185. The same trend was witnessed across all electoral constituencies during the December 9, 2023 by-elections."

"The by-elections for the National Assembly on February 3, 2024, took place in an atmosphere of low voter education and growing voter apathy in the nation.

"Zesn reiterates its call that Parliament develop legislation, especially to amend section 129(k) of the Constitution, to prevent recalls from being carried out arbitrarily, which would put a burden on the national budget and reduce the value of the vote," added Zesn.

 The election watchdog urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and other electoral stakeholders to continue supporting voter education efforts to ensure that the electorate is well informed about electoral processes in order to enhance participation.

"There is a need to ensure the safety and security of observers when discharging their duties without fear of reprisal to ensure public confidence in the electoral process and electoral credibility.

"It is imperative to establish clear mechanisms for the protection of observers, including legal frameworks that explicitly prohibit any form of harassment or reprisal against them."

Zesn also called upon political parties to promote a culture of non-violence and tolerance in order to ensure that citizens participate freely in electoral processes. we are bringing in a talented defender who, at the age of 23, can already show a good track record. He has a lot of experience and has also played Conference and Europa League."

"He is a boy who wants to invest in his sporting career. Lucky for us, because otherwise he would be a waste of money. The many offers from several larger clubs proved that. I look forward to how he will develop with us."

Garananga's compatriot, Antonio, made his second successive start for Mechelen as he continues to cement his position in the side's starting XI.

The former Prince Edward High School and Dynamos winger lasted for 83 minutes before he was substituted.

It was his eighth appearance for the club this season, scoring two goals including in last week's 2-2 draw against giants Gent.

The two Zimbabwe internationals will be looking to be involved even more when seventh-placed Genk visit at the weekend.

The pair has a single cap each for the senior national team.

Garananga featured as a second half substitute in the Warriors' last match, a 2026 World Cup qualifier against Nigeria in Rwanda late last year while 21-year-old Antonio made his debut as an 18 year against South Africa in a 2022 World Cup qualifier in 2021.

The duo id expected to form part of the Warriors squad when they resume their World Cup qualification campaign in June with back-to-back clashes against Lesotho and South Africa.

Source - newsday