Enhancing Political Participation for a Vibrant Democracy

Mawoyo Kimberly C.T and Denya Ruvimbo N.V

POLITICAL participation in any country is the main cornerstone of democracy in any democratic state because it allows citizens to have an engagement with political processes, express their preferences on any given matter and also influence the decision making in their country.

Efforts of democratization have an aim of increasing the political participation which creates a system that will be inclusive and reflects the will of the people.

Participating in political procedures is a citizens democratic right and it is encompassed in different forms which are voting, running for any office, being a member of any political party, participating in public debates and also protesting when there is a need to do so.

 Political participation directly provides citizens with many opportunities some of which are an opportunity to shape policies, influencing the opinion of the public and holding the elected representatives accountable of anything they would have or have not done.

Inclusive political participation is there to ensure that all segments of the society whether the upper or lower segment, groups that are marginalized all have a voice in the decision making process of their country.

 An inclusive participation is also there to address social inequalities amongst citizens, diversity and it also reduces the concentration of power in the hands of the few.

Inasmuch as we praise political participation there are also factors that can hinder the participation of citizens in political procedures and these are the suppression of voters, electoral laws that can be very restrictive.

For example according to the recent Zimbabwean elections if one wanted to be a Presidential candidate they were supposed pay a non-refundable amount of USD2000 to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which ca be quite hindering to those who aren’t moneyed, a lack of representation and also the limited access of information.

To enhance the political participation of citizens in Zimbabwe there is need to strengthen civic education programs that will be put in place to inform citizens of their political rights, political processes and the importance of participating in political processes.

Implementing electoral reforms that remove barriers would also be a great start for example the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must do away with the US$20 000 paid by aspiring presidential candidates.

Because as a commission they already have an allocated budget for election and this should utilise that money, there’s no clear reason as to why presidential candidates have to pay them again plus this also shuts out those who are not able to pay the US$20 000 from running for the office, which renders the process undemocratic.

  To enhance political participation there is also need to encourage those who are marginalised to acquaint themselves with political processes not by word of mouth but by affirmative action policies, quotas and also outreach programs.

Effective use of technology can also be a tool to factor for political participation.

The world has evolved into a digital and global village and it is credible to enhance the use of digital platforms to facilitate for citizen engagement, information sharing, mobilization and it can go as far as having voter education on digital platforms.

 It is evident that citizens have lost faith in the system and there is need to promote transparency, accountability and responsiveness in governance to build lost trust and encourage citizen participation in political processes.

The youth of any given country who are said to be tomorrow’s leaders are one group that can either feel neglected in political processes and may decide to sabotage the whole process if they aren’t handled well.

It is quite obvious that the way that those who are past the youth stage think is different from the way youths think and it is very important to engage the young people and hear their ideas which are new to older generations if we want to cement a long term sustainable democracy.

 Initiatives that are underway during political processes should be able to accommodate the youth in a way that they will feel free to air their views and even grievances.

There is also a need to involve the youth in decision making processes but not only as voters or when seeking new ideas but we should also see other youths contesting for positions and this will restore faith in the system because it is easier for a youth to advocate for empowerment of other youths than for an old man to advocate for the concerns of the youth.

 Providing an opportunity for the youth to hold their youth led initiatives is the first step in a journey of advocating for youth participation in the political processes of Zimbabwe.

The journey of full participation in political processes might seem to be a very long one, but it is important to utilise the shortcuts because political participation is vital for the full functioning and vibrancy of democracy.

 Political participation ensures that citizens also have a say in governance. Overcoming barriers to political participation and promoting inclusive engagement is not a one man thing, it has to include the government, civil society and the citizens themselves thus there’s need to implement strategies that enhance political participation so that the whole political process reflects the diverse voices and aspirations of citizens.

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