Editor's Comment

We must address voter apathy

VOTES do not lie. The outcome of Thursday’s ward and mayoral elections was an endorsement of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) policies.While the PF celebrates its overwhelming victory in the July 26 elections, losing political parties and candidates should go back to the drawing board and reflect on their performance.
The results are important because they may be a pointer to the 2021 general elections.
The participation of so many political parties in the Lusaka mayoral elections scooped by former deputy minister Miles Sampa was significant as the candidates, most of them newcomers on the scene, tested the waters.
For some candidates, Thursday’s outcome was victory for them having campaigned just about one month and have mastered experience for the 2021 elections in which they may contest as parliamentary candidates.
Elsewhere, the battle was between the PF and major opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND), with the ruling party winning with a landslide.
This has undoubtedly given the UPND a lot of homework, especially that it is losing grip even in its strongholds.
UPND needs to get to the grassroots and revamp the structures.
While Thursday’s elections were very peaceful – thanks to the peace pact between the PF and the UPND- the turnout was very low. This is despite Government having declared July 26 a public holiday.
We are disappointed because most people chose to merry-make instead of exercising their civic responsibility.
Voter apathy undermines democracy and it has to be nipped in the bud ahead of the general elections in 2021.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia and its partners should get to the root cause of this apathy to safeguard our country’s democracy.
The ECZ did not do enough sensitisation to make people aware about the elections and, as a result, most voters stayed away.
Besides, between 2016 and now, some people have lost their voter’s cards, which needed to be replaced for them to participate in the elections.
Others have been transferred to other districts where elections were not taking place while those who relocated to places where the polls took place could not vote.
The country’s population is growing, with some young people having attained voting age but were not availed the opportunity to do so due to lack of voter registration.
There is, therefore, need for continuous voter registration so that more young people can also vote.
Donors should, therefore, continue building the capacity of the ECZ for voter registration so that apathy does not recur in future elections.
Political parties such as the UPND and others should learn that failing to pick preferred candidates contributes to apathy.
Their supporters stayed away on account of feeling indifferent to the party’s choice of the candidate.
When party members feel alienated from the political process, they are highly unlikely to vote.
On the other hand, all political parties should work hard to motivate their members to go and vote.
Most times, like was the case on Thursday, some voters felt that their vote was not making any difference. There is need to sensitise citizens to understand that they are the biggest winners in any election by voting even if their preferred candidates or parties do not win.

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