Implement youth-friendly electoral reforms ahead of 2023 elections
By Rudo Anna Motsi
Zimbabwe will conduct its second harmonized elections in 2023 under the Second Republic.
The 2018 harmonized elections were to some extent conducive for a youth vote and opportunities for the youths to participate not just as voters but also as candidates.
However, what was witnessed was a snub of the youths in the major political parties and this led to a group of like-minded youths to contest in the 2018 elections as independent candidates for local authority elections.
While there are provisions in the law that encourage youth participation in elections, political parties in Zimbabwe continue to snub the youths at a time the youths are given a mere tokenistic 10 seats in Parliament as espoused by Constitutional Amendment Bill No. 2.
For the 2023 harmonized elections, the government needs to address youth concerns, encourage participation and draw up youth-friendly electoral reforms to increase youth participation.
There are not many youths who have successfully stood as candidates, particularly in political parties. This has been exacerbated by the different internal structures in political parties.
As a result, the youths have been sidelined in electoral processes and the go
vernment is not doing much to accommodate youths' views and build their confidence.
While the youths have been given 10 Parliamentary seats under the Constitutional Amendment Bill No 2, this token does not encourage meaningful, effective youth participation.
Need for youth-friendly electoral reforms
For youths to effectively participate in the entire election cycle, the government needs to implement youth friendly electoral reforms. This encompasses a non-partisan youth quota system that includes independent youth candidates. This will increase participation and boost youth confidence.
Retire the old and accommodate youth
There is also a need to make room for new and innovative youth ideas in political spaces such as Parliament. In Zimbabwe, there are Members of Parliament (MPs) who have been in Parliament since 2013. This discourages youths to contest in elections as there are constituencies that are already reserved for the old politicians. The Government of Zimbabwe needs to implement a friendly legal framework that accommodates the youth voice.
Youth voter education
In 2023, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) needs to provide voter education specifically targeting the youths; relaying information on how to participate in elections not just as voters but also as candidates and contestants. With less experience, the youths are disadvantaged and some of these disadvantages can be addressed through comprehensive and targeted voter education.
1. The Government of Zimbabwe must implement youth friendly electoral reforms to increase youth participation.
2. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should consider conducting youth-friendly voter education moving towards the 2023 harmonized elections.
3. Implementation of a youth-friendly legal framework ahead of 2023 harmonized to increase participation is equally important.