The Anti Voter Apathy Project (AVAP) has expressed worry with the continued low voter turnout that has characterised parliamentary and ward by-elections in the country in the last few years.
AVAP Executive Director Richwell Mulwani said people’s loss of confidence in the electoral process was one of the reasons why by-elections have been recording poor voter turnout.
He cited violence by political parties during campaigns as the major factor that has led to voters shunning participating in the electoral process.
“People have lost confidence because of electoral violence. People don’t want violence so they stay away from going to vote because they feel it is not worth it,” he said.
Speaking to ZANIS in a telephone interview in Lusaka today, Mr. Mulwani said there was need for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to engage political parties on the need for peaceful elections in order to win back the confidence of voters.
He said if the issue of electoral violence was not addressed, people would continue to shun elections, a situation he said should not be allowed in a democratic country like Zambia.
The AVAP Director said the poor voter turnout during elections was a threat to democracy because people were denied their democratic right of choosing leaders in a peaceful atmosphere.
Mr. Mulwani said AVAP on its part has started engaging youths who were widely used as tools of political violence on the need to desist from violent acts that were causing voter apathy.
He said sensitisation programmes will be held in all areas where by-elections will be conducted starting with Katuba constituency.
“For us, we are on the ground and we have started sensitisation programmes. We are holding meetings and engaging one on one especially the youth who are threatening the electoral process by engaging in violence,” he said.
Mr. Mulwani also appealed to ECZ to compel political parties to abide by the electoral code of conduct during by-elections.
He said the continued disregard of electoral rules by political parties during by-elections has led to a hostile electoral environment thereby causing voter apathy.
Mr. Mulwani also said ECZ should embark on a continuous voter registration exercise that would allow people especially in rural areas who have lost their voters’ cards get replacements.
He said some people in rural constituencies are being denied their right to vote because there was no provision to replace either their National Registration Cards or voters’ cards.