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Voter Apathy: Can it pay a huge role in the upcoming Zimbabwe Elections

July 26, 2018

By Prince Kurupati

Across many political spectrums, upcoming Zimbabwe harmonised elections are the most critical elections in the country since the 1980 elections that paved the way for the attainment of independence.

For the first time since the 1980 watershed election, the name Robert Mugabe (former President) will not be on the presidential ballot; also for the first time in nearly two decades, the name Morgan Tsvangirai (former Prime Minister and main opposition party leader) will not be on the presidential ballot.

On the presidential ballot will be 23 candidates but only two are considered genuine frontrunners i.e. the incumbent Emmerson Mnangagwa and the leader of the main opposition party Nelson Chamisa. Many Zimbabweans are pinning their hopes on either one of these two to raise the country from its economic and political doldrums.

While a larger proportion of the electorate is all geared up for the Election Day, there is also a section that is still undecided both on the aspect of who to vote for and most importantly, if they are to cast their votes at all come Election Day.

In past elections, in general, the country’s voter turnout ranges between 50 to 60 percent with the majority of those who fail to turn up on Election Day being the youth. Data released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) says 60% of registered voters in the upcoming general elections are 40 years and below, meaning the youth constitute a larger proportion of this year’s electorate also.

With the above in mind, it’s worrying to note that Afro barometer puts the number of those who are undecided or who see themselves not casting their votes at 14 percent while other studies/polls put the undecided vote on 26 percent. It’s only wise to state that the majority of the undecided vote lies within the youth demographic structure as it is this group which has the highest number of registered voters.

Working with the conservative undecided vote figure from Afro barometer of 14 percent, one can note that this is quite a huge figure which has the potential to impact negatively on the election. Afro barometer in its latest report also states that the incumbent is going to win by 40 percent while his main rival is going to come in second place with 37 percent. With the law of the land stating that a President-Elect can only be duly declared if s/he garners at least 50 percent + 1 vote, we can see that neither of the two will be declared outright winners in the first round thereby leading to the dreadful runoff.

It is against this background that we note the importance of the undecided vote. The final voters roll released by ZEC contains 5, 6 million voters. If we calculate the 14 percent of undecided voters from the final voters roll we get a figure of around 784 000. If either Emmerson Mnangagwa or Nelson Chamisa manages to sway the undecided vote to his side, then an outright winner in the presidential race will be found in the first round of voting hence no need for a dreadful and costly second round/runoff.

Voter apathy, therefore, can play a huge role in the upcoming Zimbabwe elections and it’s important that everyone who registered to vote do so come Election Day.

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