ZESN Says Voter Apathy, Intimidation Marred Zim's By-Elections

By Jeffrey Moyo

HARARE-The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the country’s largest independent  election body that co-ordinates activities pertaining to elections has said the just ended parliamentary by-elections in 16 constituencies were marred by voter apathy and intimidation.

This is despite the ruling Zanu-PF roping to victory, scooping all the 16 contested constituencies in the parliamentary by-elections.

The voter apathy and intimidation reports surfaced at ZESN’s press conference held in the capital Harare, a day after the elections.

“ZESN observed that there was voter apathy in the urban constituencies as compared to the rural constituencies. The turn-out could be attributed to the fact that the by-elections were held on a working day,” Irene Petras, ZESN chairperson, told reporters.

Despite the polling day having been relatively peaceful, ZESN said “the pre-election period was marred by incidents of violence, intimidation and vote buying.”

“On Election Day, ZESN observed intimidation of voters at various polling stations, with reports from observers indicating that in a number of constituencies, suspected Zanu(PF) officials and village heads were recording the details of voters before they arrived at polling stations and after the voters had cast their votes,” said Petras while reading from the ZESN press statement.

According to ZESN, voter apathy and intimidation reports came from the body’s observers in areas like Tsholotsho, Headlands and Hurungwe West.

Meanwhile, ZESN also said “the inadequacy of voter education was evident in the significant number of turned away voters, including voters turning up in the wrong ward, and not bringing the required identity documents.”

The just ended parliamentary by-elections have been dubbed “a mini-general election” in Zimbabwe’s political circles following the expulsion of 21 Members of Parliament belonging to the opposition Movement for Democratic Change party led by this Southern African nation’s former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai.

However, a few days ago, Zimbabwe’s Information Minister and ruling Zanu(PF) politburo member and Tsholotsho MP-elect, Professor Jonathan Moyo,who polled the highest number of votes in Wednesday’s elections had tweeted that ‘Tsvangirai has “voluntarily” caused the vote’.

The expelled legislators had crossed the floor from the MDC-T to form their own political outfit dubbed MDC Renewal Team.

But the opposition MDC -T has been calling on its supporters to boycott these by-elections protesting the absence of electoral reforms, which the main opposition here said would work in favour of the ruling Zanu(PF).

Meanwhile, over 100 parliamentary candidates, including those from Zanu(PF), other smaller parties and independent candidates took part in the controversial by-elections.