How does the Electoral System work in Zimbabwe?

In this video we explain how our votes translate into seats in Parliament, provincial and metropolitan Council or in a municipal Council in Zimbabwe. This video is part of the Civics Academy Election Series for Zimbabwe.

In general, there are two types of electoral systems: proportional representation, or PR system, and constituency representation system. Both systems have advantages and disadvantages. In Zimbabwe, we use both the constituency representation system and the PR systems for national elections. For provincial elections we only use the PR system. In local government elections, we only use the constituency representation system. The 2021 Constitutional Amendment makes provision for the election of local councillors through a combination of the PR and the constituency representation system. In local authorities, constituencies are called ‘wards’. 

1. Proportional representation system: Under the PR system voters vote for a political party rather than a candidate. A political party, through a party list, nominates its candidates ahead of the election. The allocation of PR seats corresponds closely with the proportion of the total votes cast for each political party in the election. 

The advantage of PR is that it allows both big and small parties to be represented. For example, if a party receives 15% of the votes, it will also receive about 15% of the seats. The disadvantages of PR are firstly, that the elected representatives owe their positions to the party, since people vote for the party, not for them as individuals. Therefore, they often feel more accountable to the party than to the public. Secondly, the diversity of parties in the legislature may make it difficult to take decisions, and form a government. 

2. The constituency representation system Under the constituency representation system voters vote for a candidate who may or may not be aligned to a political party and the candidate with the highest number of votes wins the election. 

The advantage of this system is that each elected representative is directly accountable to the voters in his or her constituency. 

The disadvantage is that it is not an accurate reflection of the diversity of views of the voters. Let’s say two candidates compete: candidate A gets 55% of the votes and candidate B gets 45% of the votes. In a straightforward constituency representation election, candidate A wins the ward seat, and candidate B gets nothing. That is why it’s called a ‘winner-takes-all’ system.

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