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Zimbabwe: Young voters register for elections

March 27, 2023

Zimbabwe's merged presidential and parliamentary elections are five months away. Ongoing registration is giving young people, especially first-time voters, a chance to get involved in choosing the next leader.

A woman casts her ballot at a polling station in Harare, Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans are scheduled to vote for a new leader in AugustImage: Shaun Jusa/Xinhua/picture alliance

Zimbabwe's voter registration exercise has attracted many young voters eager to participate in the forthcoming general elections.

Over 6 million voters have registered for the harmonized presidential and parliamentary polls scheduled to take place in five months.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission intends to target many young voters before the 10-day exercise ends this month.

The registration exercise has faced some technical challenges, but the Electoral Commission has assured all eligible voters that they would be registered.

Some centers have also recorded incidences of violence sparked by disagreements among political parties.

Despite these challenges, many young people, especially first-time voters, have already shown interest in registering before the exercise officially ends, the commission said.

The new voting bloc already has high expectations of the next government.

"We need infrastructure development, developments in health facilities and education," a young Harare-based voter told DW.

Another student told DW that finding work after graduation was crucial, and that the next president would have to prioritize job creation.

"What we want as students and as young people, when we finish school within these five years of an elected president, we expect to get jobs. Not just jobs, but decent jobs," the student said.

People holding canisters of cooking oil and other foodstuffs
Zimbabweans are struggling with runaway inflationImage: ZINYANGE AUNTONY/AFP/Getty Images

Economy struggling with inflation and corruption

Zimbabwe is struggling with entrenched poverty, chronic power cuts and runaway inflation.

The country ranks low in the corruption index recently released by Transparency International, indicating high levels of systemic corruption in public office.

Although the government under incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa has struggled to deal with these challenges, it still appears to be in a solid position to retain power.

But supporters of the opposition — the Citizens Coalition for Change — are also confident of causing an upset in the elections.

"We know that the environment is not free and fair, but in our plans, our strategies and tactics, we are prepared to take over power in such an environment," one supporter from Harare told DW.

Zimbabwe's President Emmerson Mnangagwa
Zimbabwean President Emerson Mnangagwa is seeking reelection under the ruling ZANU-PFImage: Zinyange Auntony/AFP/Getty Images

Another opposition supporter said his party must be vigilant during the elections.

"All we have to do is, we need to learn to defend our vote. In previous elections, we have gone and voted in numbers, but we have not defended our vote. Come 2023, we have devised methods to defend that vote," the supporter said.

Lack of formidable opposition

Political analyst Gibson Nyikadzino told DW that the lack of a formidable opposition means the ruling Zimbabwe African National Union — Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) party could extend its decadeslong grip on power.

"The opposition is an enemy to itself. It fails to assess how it can coalesce around policy, ideology, values and consensus on executing their strategy in challenging ZANU-PF," said Nyikadzino.

For Harare-based political analyst Alexander Rusero, the opposition can only win the elections if it institutes a more robust strategy.

"The opposition currently is in a quandary. It does not give a posture of a party that is a government in waiting," Rusero told DW.

The 2023 elections will most likely be a two-horse race between President Mnangagwa, nominated in October 2022 as the ZANU-PF candidate, and Nelson Chamisa, the opposition leader of the Citizens Coalition for Change.

The exact date for the votes has yet to be set, but it's expected that voting could occur early in August 2023.

Zimdancehall: The urban sound of Zimbabwe's youth

Edited by: Chrispin Mwakideu