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Monday, April 22, 2024
HomeElections 2018Unpacking ERC’s Lone Fight In Increasing Voter Participation

Unpacking ERC’s Lone Fight In Increasing Voter Participation

ERC

Elections play a vital role in a system of representative democracy because they are (supposed to be) the primary mechanism with which to implement the principle of popular sovereignty.

Ultimate authority rests with the people, and the people delegate this authority to government representatives through the electoral process.

Periodic elections provide citizens with a means, ideally, to replace incumbents and change the government. Thus, they help the public to keep officeholders and political parties accountable.

Because of the unique role of elections in a democratic system, voting also has a special place among the many different forms of political participation that citizens can engage in to influence government.

It is obvious that the strength of a government and its subsequent capacity or power to carry out its functions and do whatever is necessary to realize the common good largely rests on the degree of support it has among the population throughout the country.

It is precisely this support that is expressed by democratic electoral processes.

For this reason, the phenomenon of electoral abstention, which appears to be increasing in many democratic societies today, awakens justified concern and deserves to be examined in order to discover the causes and find ways to rectify them.

It is even more important when this non-participation in elections occurs mainly among the young, as is the case in Zimbabwe.

For this reason, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) an election watchdog, is leading a lone battle for voter mobilization ahead of the 2023 elections in the country, which come hot on the heels of less progress on electoral reforms having been implemented.

Since the last elections in 2018, the government has been virtually quiet on the need to fast-track electoral reforms, which was a contentious issue in the previous elections.

To note, the ERC has been conducting voter mobilization campaigns that have led to the increase of participation of women, youth, PWDS and first-time voters in Zimbabwe.

The need for voter mobilization has emanated from the need for credible, free and fair elections in Zimbabwe, inclusion and also participation in electoral activities.

To date, the ERC has conducted various campaigns targeting virgin voters, women, the youth and PWDs, directly contributing to the increase of voter registrants.

In many countries, particularly in Africa and newly-established democracies, people have expressed deep concern not only about the overall low level of participation, but especially among specific groups like youth, women, and People With Disabilities (PWDs)

To succeed in making the new generations assume their participation as citizens in a vital challenge for all democracies, and requires a commitment from governments and political parties, candidates, non-governmental organizations and all people and groups with a democratic spirit, alike.

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There is no universal recipe for this; the social, cultural and political contexts vary from one country to the next.

Increasing reluctance among youth to participate in politics and exercise the right to vote is particularly alarming and amounts to a weakening of democracy.

The current, ongoing #RegisterToVote ZW campaign, an ERC brainchild shows the ERCs contributions towards voter mobilization in Zimbabwe.

Below, we examine some of the notable campaigns done by the ERC to lure voters to choose their democratically elected leaders.

X1G Campaign 2012

X1G was a first-time voter campaign implemented in 2012 aimed at raising awareness on the need for young people to register as voters and take part in the actual voting process of the 2013 harmonised elections.

The project was implemented in specific project areas that are, Mutare, Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Kwekwe, Masvingo, Kadoma in partnership with different youth organisations.

The campaign was anchored on the media strategy which witnessed the production and distribution of paraphernalia and a 15 track Brand X CD. The CD contained civic information meant to encourage youth to register to vote and take part in the actual voting process.

A website, Facebook page, an animated character Votex, and the Interactive Voice Response System (IVR) was set up to enhance information dissemination.

The X1G Campaign was launched in Harare and Bulawayo in July 2012 with the latter being graced by youth representatives from the three political parties in Government, the MDC T, MDC N and ZANU PF.

The X1G campaign became fully-fledged with a media target and material production and distribution as its core activities.

Late in the year, the X1G campaign launched 30s jingles on Star FM which were aimed at encouraging youth to register as voters.

On the other hand, the use of social media became paramount with the X1G running a website, Facebook page, Twitter account and a WhatsApp number for direct interface with youth potential voters.

The campaign reached about 4 million youths and participated in the 2013 harmonised elections as a result of this campaign. Although the project targeted youths only, it also indirectly reached out to all age groups as well.

 

#RegisterElectEngage Campaign

 

#RegisterElectEngage was a campaign targeting non-registrants to register to vote, to ensure participation in by-elections, delimitation and in the Harmonized elections. ZEC will be engaged to ensure that registration centres are open.

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Young people and first-time registrants face numerous constraints to register as voters. These constraints include inaccessibility of registration centres, lack of confidence in the Electoral Commission,

Social media has become a critical platform for engagement and mobilization and young people relate well with any of the campaigns on the platforms, to that end ERC will use the hashtag, RegisterElectEngage.

The identified issues in the problem statement result in apathy among First Time Registrants and ERC through the campaign, sought to attract and facilitate that First Time Registrants take the initiative to utilise the available platforms, and support individual access and register as voters.

#RegisterToVoteZW Campaign- 2021

Weeks since the ZEC lifted the suspension on electoral activities, the ERC, dedicated to ensuring the participation of young people in electoral processes, launched a #RegisterToVoteZW campaign which followed their successful “Pledge To Register” campaign.

Since the 12th of April, the ERC campaign has been assisting willing participants go through the registration process.

The #RegisterToVoteZW campaign is a campaign aimed at increasing the number of registered voters by assisting citizens through the registration process.

The ERC will take citizens who contact their toll free number, to and from registration centres, and take the opportunity to educate citizens about their electoral rights and the outstanding electoral reforms.

“It is our collective responsibility to provide young people with the platforms they need and deserve to actively participate in our democracy. The ERC is thrilled to be working on the #RegisterToVoteZW campaign, because that’s exactly what it does.

With the support of Student and Community Based Organisations we are meeting citizens and students where they are and will ultimately engage citizens in targeting the by-election cycle and beyond.” Takunda Tsunga, Legal and Advocacy Officer of the ERC, said.

“The #PledgeToVoteZW and the #RegisterToVoteZW campaigns are just the beginning, as we work to create a movement of directly engaging citizens, especially youth and women in electoral processes.”

The #RegisterToVoteZW campaign includes lessons that cover the subjects of voting rights, how local elections relate to issues impacting their community, and the importance of civic participation.

The ERC hopes that the #RegisterToVoteZW campaign will supplement existing citizens’ efforts, and provide platforms for citizens, specifically youths and women to channel their democratic passion by registering to vote.

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Multi-award winning journalist/photojournalist with keen interests in politics, youth, child rights, women and development issues. Follow Lovejoy On Twitter @L_JayMut

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