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By-elections must be held in peaceful, calm environment

. As the by-election drew closer, Zesn observers noted an increase in campaign activities.

IN the spirit of promoting democratic elections in Zimbabwe, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) observed a local authority by-election on December 2, 2023 in Chinhoyi Municipality ward 2. The by-election in which Zanu PF won was held to fill in a vacancy that arose in the ward following the death of the incumbent councillor Patricia Chibaya of the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC).

Legal framework

The by-election was held in accordance with section 121A of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13) following the death of the incumbent councillor.

The nomination court sat at the office of the town clerk in Chinhoyi on October 27, 2023 for the purposes of receiving nominations of candidates for the vacant ward. The nomination court approved the candidature of Jonasi Hamilton of CCC and Mutevani Walter of Zanu PF.

Observation methodology

Zesn trained and deployed four static observers who were accredited by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to observe the local authority by-election. The observers were deployed to four polling stations a few days before polling to observe the electoral and political developments ahead of the polls. The findings and recommendations of this preliminary statement are made in reference to the Electoral Laws of Zimbabwe, the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) Principles and Guidelines Governing the Conduct of Democratic Elections as well as other regional and African election guidelines and principles. This preliminary statement is based on reports received from the Zesn observers.

Pre-election observations

Campaigns to solicit votes formally commenced in November soon after the sitting of the nomination court on October 27, 2023. The pre-election period was by and large peaceful across the ward. As the by-election drew closer, Zesn observers noted an increase in campaign activities. On November 26, 2023, Zanu PF held a campaign rally which was addressed by prominent Zanu PF figures, including Mary Mliswa-Chikoka, Christopher Mutsvangwa, Prisca Mupfumira and Mike Chimombe. Zesn observers also noted that Zanu PF conducted a series of door-to-door campaigns distributing flyers while CCC was mainly using outdoor campaign posters as a method of reaching out to the electorate.

Polling day political environment

The political environment was reported to be calm and peaceful in the ward that Zesn observed.

Set up and opening of polling stations

Prior to the setting up of polling stations, voters rolls were displayed outside to enable the electorate to check their names, a good practice by Zec that serves to lessen the number of redirected and turned away voters on polling day. In the four polling stations observed, Zesn observers reported that the polling stations were opened on time with all the essential polling materials such as ballot boxes, ballot papers, indelible finger markers, voters rolls and the Zec official stamps available.

Political party agents

Zanu PF and CCC contested the local authority by-election and had polling agents in all the four polling stations. Zesn commends the political parties for their consistency in deploying political party agents in all elections as this allows them to track polling processes which in turn enables them to make informed assessments or  any mediations where needed.

On average, Zesn observed that there were seven polling officers, and the majority of the polling officials were female. In addition, at the four polling stations, Zesn observers noted that Zec ensured gender parity by assigning both male and female presiding officers. Polling procedures were duly followed in accordance with the law, for example checking voters names on the voters roll and checking their fingers for ink before they were allowed to vote. Ballot papers were stamped with the official Zec stamp before being issued to voters.

Voter turnout

Voter turnout was relatively low, with 39,2% of people turning out to vote. At Domestic Science Hall polling station 351 out of 846 registered voters turned out to vote, while 217 out of a total of 539 voted at Municipal Sub-office A. - Zimbabwe Election Support Network

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