Peaceful by-elections: ZEC explains voter turnout

10 Dec, 2023 - 00:12 0 Views
Peaceful  by-elections: ZEC explains voter turnout A Bulawayo resident goes through the voting process at Mkhithika Primary School in Bulawayo yesterday

The Sunday News

Sunday News Reporters

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has expressed satisfaction with yesterday’s by-elections and last night said results were expected this morning, and commended members of the public for conducting themselves peacefully throughout the voting process.

In an interview last night, ZEC chief elections officer Mr Utloile Silaigwana said results were expected this morning. He, however, said the voter turnout was low at most polling stations which was not an unusual phenomenon with by-elections.

“It depends from one area to the other. Remember we have both rural and urban area constituencies. Naturally in constituencies that are close we are expecting the results much earlier. But we also understand areas such as Lupane East where there was a by-election, there were rains last night and we don’t know how much they have affected our road infrastructure in terms of the movement of our vehicles,” said Mr Silaigwana.

He said ZEC will conduct a meticulous verification process before releasing the results. Mr Silaigwana said considering that no incidents were recorded they expect results to be released in the shortest period possible.

“But what is important is that when the polling station closes at 7pm, there is a process of verification before counting takes place. So the counting process includes verification, the representatives of any candidate are given an opportunity to see the process by the presiding officer to account for the ballots. They account for the ballot received, the ballot used and the ballot that remained and the ballot that is supposed to be in the box. That must take place because we need to take a meticulous verification and then counting takes place. I think we should expect the results before the next sunrise depending on where the polling station is situated.”

He commended the public for voting peacefully.

“The elections were conducted peacefully, that is the most important thing. The good thing again is that all our polling stations opened on time. Our preparations were spot on as we encouraged the electorate and the candidates and everyone else who is involved in the elections to maintain peace and that was maintained and we are happy with that,” said Mr Silaigwana.

He said the commission would conduct assessment on the voter turnout as some areas recorded a high turnout while in some areas it was low. Mr Silaigwana said it was not out of the ordinary to record low voter turnout during a by-election.

“The information we are gathering from across the country is that in other areas the turnout was a little bit high by midday in other wards, the turnout was around 40 percent. But in some areas at that time the turnout was much lower. You will understand that ordinarily by-elections attract low percentages and for this one we are still going to assess to find out if they have even gone lower or not,” said Mr Silaigwana.

He said the electoral management body was always ready to hold elections as that was a constitutional requirement.

“The most important thing is that elections are a creature of the Constitution. The Constitution provides that when they are due they are supposed to be conducted. That is the way democratic nations operate. We are a nation which has got democratic elections so our electoral law, our constitution demands that we have them when a need arises,” he said.

Bulawayo Provincial Elections Officer Mr Innocent Ncube said he visited polling stations across the city and observed that the by-elections were conducted in a free and fair environment.

“The by-election has come and it is in the process of coming to an end. As we speak right now all the polling stations have closed. I was moving around and the turnout was very low which is typical of by-elections. The elections were, however, peaceful and the environment was very calm. I was interacting with the people as I was moving around who gave us those sentiments as well,” said Mr Ncube.

Matabeleland North Provincial Elections Officer Mr Richard Sibanda said voting went on well in the two constituencies of Binga North and Lupane East. Lupane East has 24 185 registered voters while Binga North has 34 270 registered voters.

“All polling stations in the province opened at 7am and closed at 7pm. We are happy with how the process went. We did not experience any hiccups. All polling stations closed at 7pm and according to our figures, as at 6pm for Lupane East we had 7 112 that had cast their votes out of a total number of 24 185 registered voters while in Binga North 6 592 had cast their votes out of 34  270 registered voters,” said Mr Sibanda.

In Matabeleland South’s Beitbridge West constituency where the contest was between independent candidate Mr Brendan Dube, Mrs Thoriso Moyo of Zapu and Cde Husani Ndou of Zanu-PF, voting went on without incidents. Beitbridge West constituency elections officer Mr Adrian Muyambo said the process was peaceful.  He said all 52 polling stations in eight wards opened at 7am and closed at 7pm with ballots counting starting after 7pm. He said they expected to have results early this morning.

By-elections were held in eight National Assembly constituencies, five in Bulawayo (Cowdray Park, Lobengula-Magwegwe, Nketa, Bulawayo South and Mpopoma-Magwegwe, two in Matabeleland North (Lupane East and Binga North) and one in Matabeleland South (Beitbridge West). In Harare’s Mabvuku-Tafara Zanu-PF’s candidate Cde Pedzai “Scot” Sakupwanya sailed uncontested and was declared the winner. There were also elections for councillors in eight local authorities, with Bulawayo having the largest number.

The by-elections were triggered by the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) which recalled nine National Assembly candidates and several councillors on account that they had ceased to be its members. The electorate braved the scorching heat to exercise their constitutional right of choosing those they thought would best serve them. Candidates across the political divide expressed satisfaction with the electoral environment.

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