Low turnout in Zimbabwe election cost Chamisa presidency: Analysts

Over two million registered voters did not vote in Zimbabwe’s 2023 election, potentially costing Nelson Chamisa the presidency

A total of 6 623 511 individuals were registered to vote in the 2023 election, an increase from the previous 2018 poll of 5 695 706.

However, only 4 561 221 of the 6 623 511 registered voters showed up to vote, with 4 468 668 legal votes cast. 

Voter turnout in 2023 was 68.9 percent down from 85.1 percent in 2018.

Presidential Election Number  2018  2023
Total Registered Voters5 695 706   6 623 511
Votes for Emmerson Mnangagwa2 456 010  2 350 711
Votes for Nelson Chamisa2 151 927  1 967 343

Analysts believe Chamisa was harmed more than Zanu PF’s Emmerson Mnangagwa, who received 52.6 percent of the vote with a total of 2 350 711 ballots.

Chamisa, on the other side, received 44 percent of the vote, or 1 967 343 ballots.

Mnangagwa received 50.6 percent of the vote in 2018, with 2 456 010 votes, 105 299 fewer than this year. 

Chamisa earned 44.3 percent of the vote in 2018 with 2 151 927 votes, but received 184 584 less votes this year.

“Voter turnout in this election was lower than 2018, becoming one of the decisive factors in the election,” said political analyst Iphithule Maphosa.

Maphosa said there are quite a few reasons for having low voter turnout during elections. 

“Some people simply do not want to vote. Maybe others are fatigued or are hopeless so they don’t vote. Others are undecided on who they want to vote for, so they do not choose anyone,” he said.

However, the political analyst stated concerns connected to voter registration, disenfranchisement, and election anomalies deterred individuals from voting.

“Before we discuss issues such as literacy, and whether people with disabilities can vote, the deliberate disenfranchisement of voters was an issue. Some polling stations opened way after 7 a.m., others opened in the evening and where to stay open during the night to account for 12 hours of voting time. How many people felt safe to go out at night and vote,” he said.

Maphosa noted people should interrogate the cause of the growing trend of voter apathy in Zimbabwe.

“Most people believe that their votes don’t count. When voters believe their votes really matter, they will naturally vote in larger numbers,” he said.

“There is something about Zimbabwe that is causing this growing level of hopelessness that we are seeing.”

Statistics show that in 2018, all provinces had a turnout of at least 80 percent but this year, only three Mashonaland provinces recorded a turnout of above 70 percent and these are Zanu PF strongholds.

For instance, Zanu PF won in all 18 Hurungwe constituencies in Mashonaland West.

Turnout was lower across the country, falling from 85.10 percent in 2018 to 68.86 percent this year.


Bulawayo83.9 %58.79%
Matabeleland North82.74%60.62%
Matabeleland South81.86 %59.81%
Midlands84.11 %67.71%
Harare85.6 %67.7%
Manicaland84.72 %68.13%
Mashonaland East 85.56 %72.7%
Mashonaland West84.82%71.85%
Mashonaland Central90.8%77.87%
Masvingo84.1%69.79 %
Total Average 85.10%68.86
Source: ZEC

This year, only the three Mashonaland provinces had a turnout of 70 percent.

In Harare, where vote delays resulted in an extra day of voting in 11 wards, as indicated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) turnout fell from 85.65 percent in 2018 to 67.7 percent.

Chamisa also received 31 559 fewer votes this year, while Mnangagwa’s votes in Mashonaland, propelled him.

Another political analyst, Bernard Magugu said a low voter turnout silences the voice of the majority who could have voted for ‘change.’

“What we see is a consistent number who vote for tyranny. The majority who voted, voted for Zanu PF, and elected a leader for the overwhelming majority who chose or did not vote on Election Day,” he explained.

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