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Politicians can translate online support to votes - Analysts

Politicians who enjoy vast support online have been urged implement measures that can help them translate their backing to votes in the forthcoming election.

This comes at a time most politicians who were virtually cheered on ahead of by-elections failed to mirror their online support on the ballot.

Only 35 percent of registered voters cast their votes while an even bigger number of potential electorate is believed not to have registered.

Election body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission recently ended a mobile voter registration exercise which targeted first time voters, especially young people who became eligible after the 2018 general election.

The exercise was also marred with a relatively low turnout, as majority of the youth, who represent a large demography of online users failed to express interest in the national process.

Both the ruling party and opposition politicians are aiming to win the youth vote to land victory in next year’s harmonised elections.

Political scientist Dr Norman Pinduka (PHD) said voter apathy is driven by beliefs that elections do not change anything.

“Zimbabweans have a belief that even if they participate in elections; nothing changes because of historical factors.

“Zanu PF has been in power for four decades yet people have participated in elections throughout the period,” he said.

“Secondly, issues of political violence can’t be ignored. Some people have pseudo names which they use to comment on social media platforms but can’t do so in person because of political violence which comes in form of intimidation and the use of force.”

Dr Pinduka said exercising tolerance can see online support being translated to votes.

“To end voter apathy; political parties need to exercise tolerance, preach the gospel of tolerance, peace and unity for Zimbabweans to change their approach to politics,” he said.

“There is always the need for awareness campaigns and voter education especially in the rural areas where people’s voices have been thwarted by certain political leaders.

“Voter education in native languages is also crucial”.

Political analyst Tiwonei Chileya said the inclusion of diaspora vote can increase political participation.

“A large chunk of online supporters especially for opposition parties come from the diaspora,” said Chileya.

“The inclusion of the diaspora vote can see an increase in participation in the electoral process and is also key if parties are to translate online support to votes.”

The ZANU PF led government has for years blocked diaspora vote except for members of the diplomatic corps stationed in different countries.