INDEPENDENT electoral watchdog, Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (Zesn), has expressed concern over growing voter apathy after less than half of registered voters turned out for Kuwadzana and Mwenezi by-elections over the weekend.

In the elections held over the weekend in Kuwadzana, Adonia Shoko of MDC won the by-election with 1 517 votes against Zanu PF candidate Lloyd Makuwe’s 718 votes.

Zanu PF’s Samuel Kwinika, however, walloped MDC’s Shepherd Dzuda in Mwenezi, garnering 1 811 votes against a humiliating 27 votes for the opposition party.

Although Zesn observed that the elections were generally peaceful, a departure from the history of past violent elections, the dwindling number of voters was a worrying trend.

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Zesn observed that voters shunned the by-elections with the number of votes decreasing drastically, particularly in Kuwadzana.

“As with many other by-elections held before, Zesn observed worrying voter apathy in the by-elections, voter population dropped by 55 in Kuwadzana from 11 180 to 11 125, voter turnout was 20% in Kuwadzana,” Zesn said in statement yesterday.

It noted that in Kuwadzana there was a decrease of over 7 000 votes between the total votes cast in the harmonised polls and by-elections for both parties.

“There was a decrease of over 7 000 votes between the total votes cast in the harmonised elections and the by-election in Kuwadzana. Votes for Zanu PF decreased by 1 324 while for the MDC Alliance there was a decrease of 5 353 votes between the 2018 harmonised elections and the by-election.”

In Mwenezi, the MDC Alliance lost to Zanu PF by a margin of 1 784 votes. The seat was uncontested in the 2018 harmonised elections. Turnout was comparatively higher in Mwenezi where 50% of the registered voters cast their vote.

Zesn applauded voters for a peaceful election.

“The network commends voters in Mwenezi and Kuwadzana for casting their votes in peace, but is nevertheless dismayed by the voter apathy during municipal by-elections which continues to persist in the country”.

The electoral watchdog urged political parties to encourage their supporters to take part in by-elections to reduce voter indifference.

“Political parties should encourage their supporters to participate in municipal by-elections so as to address voter apathy.”