BY HARRIET CHIKANDIWA

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.

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.”