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  • Lowest voter turn out recorded since 1980
    Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)
    November 27, 2005

    View Results of the 2005 Senate Elections and Gutu North Parliamentary by-election

    The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) fielded 42 mobile observers in the 17 of the 31 contested senatorial constituencies. These constituencies are; Harare-Mabvuku-Tafara, Harare-Mbare-Hatfield, Chitungwiza, Masvingo, Gutu, Chivi-Mwenezi, Hwange East, Bubi-Umguza , Gwanda, Insiza, Beitbridge, Tsholotsho-Hwange, Bulawayo -Makokoba, Pumula - Luveve, Bulawayo - Nkulumane, Mpopoma - Pelandaba and Lobengula - Magwegwe as well as the Gutu North parliamentary constituency by - election.

    Voting Process
    The ZESN observers witnessed unimpeded opening of polling stations, voting process, closing and counting of votes.

    These elections were characterised with the lowest voter turn out since independence. So far the average percentage poll of less than 30%, is the lowest ever recorded from 1980.The lowest poll prior to that was the 1996 Presidential election which recorded 32.3% poll. This clearly implies a protest vote by Zimbabweans against the status quo.

    However, the elections were generally peaceful except for one isolated skirmish at Zengeza 7 Primary School, in Chitungwiza, where two youths were allegedly interfering with voters and were later arrested by the police.

    There were also few opposition party agents in most polling stations. In addition, very few international observers were noted.

    In all polling stations that ZESN observers visited, the voting process was smooth. The major concern was the high number of the so called 'aliens' that were disenfranchised.

    Reasons for low turn out
    As mentioned in our previous preliminary reports, ZESN attributes the low turn out to a number of factors. These include, amongst others, questioning the role of the senate and senators and the importance of voting, dwindling interest in the integrity of the ballot, the current economic hardships, the political crisis as well as lack of adequate voter education and information, especially knowledge and rationale of the new senatorial constituencies.

    It is sad to note that the government has rushed to hold elections with inadequate electoral reforms and internal consensus at the expense of critical socio-economic issues. Since 2000, Zimbabwe has held more than 20 major elections, which include 2 parliamentary elections, 16 parliamentary by-elections, one constitutional referendum, one presidential election, and several Mayoral elections as well as other local authority elections. The divisions in the MDC, certainly had an impact on the low turn out. However, the low vote turn out could be a dissatisfaction with the current status quo.

    Timing of the elections
    The untimely scheduling of the election led to early closure of schools that resulted in the disruption of classes and major examinations like O' Level and A' Level. The elections were prioritised ahead of critical basic rights such as health amid reports that the major referral hospital such as Harare Hospital was threatened with closure due to critical shortages in medication, equipment and human resources.

    The timing has also been coupled with a pending crisis, which includes the persistent shortages of fuel and basic commodities. This had a negative impact, not only on the voters but also on election observation, monitoring and general logistical support services necessary for the efficient running of elections. These elections, coming eight months after the March general elections are too costly and overburdening an ailing economy.

    Meaning of election outcome
    Overally, the low voter turn out can mean, dissatisfaction with the status quo. However, ZESN is concerned that, the outcome effectively entrenches the over dominance of one party. Furthermore, the low voter turn out has a significant impact on the legitimacy and integrity of the senate, both the elected and the unopposed senators.

    ZESN is also concerned with the increasing weakening of in internal democracy within major political parties.

    ZESN proposals for way forward
    We reiterate the following issues;

    • The need to allow all bona fide Zimbabweans the right to vote. The newly introduced category of aliens under Constitutional Amendment No. 17 is grossly unfair
    • An electoral system that is inclusive and in particular encompasses a strong component of Proportional Representation
    • The need to ensure adequate representation of women in Parliament in compliance with SADC and international protocols on gender.
    • Removal of appointed senators which gives unfair advantage to the incumbent government
    • The need for continuous voter education by all stakeholders.
    • A people driven constitution that encompasses an enabling electoral environment.
    • The creation of a conducive environment that encourages full participation in economic and political development

    ZESN urges all stakeholders to put aside their differences and work for the common good and development of the country.

    Dr Reginald Matchaba-Hove (National Chairperson)

    Visit the ZESN fact sheet

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