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2nd Round of Nampula City 2018 By-election

Reflections on Voter Turnout - Considering the Simultaneous Effect of Context, Born-frees and Voters from Losing Candidates

Comment by Carlos Shenga[i]

6 March 2018

In our previous study[ii] we predicted well that voter turnout of the 1st round of the Nampula City by-election would be low based on the comparison of all elections previously conducted in this constituency. Keeping in mind that voter turnout tends to be low, we reflect towards prediction of voter turnout for the 2nd round of the Nampula City by-election by considering the simultaneous effects of context[iii] of the university academic calendar, born-frees’ behaviour toward elections and attitudes toward democracy, and voters from losing candidates.

We reflect on the contextual hypothesis that: if an election takes place during the period where students are at universities then voter turnout (in the university location) is more likely to increase. This is because elections may benefit from the presence of university students to vote. If elections take place during the period that students are in vacation then voter turnout will probably reduce.[iv]

At the same time, we reflect on born-frees – the generation of Mozambican citizens “who were born during democratic politics from 1994 onwards. It entails the generational cohort of those citizens who did not only grow up democratic but also were born free”.[v] The born-free hypothesis is that: if born-frees are more likely to vote in elections then voter turnout is likely to increase. As they grew up democratic and born free from colonial and one-party authoritarian governments, they are expected to vote. If born-frees are less likely to vote, then voter turnout is more likely to decline.  

Based on these assumptions, one reflection with respect to voter turnout in the 1st round of the Nampula City by-election is the absence or presence of university students. By observing that voter turnout was low and young voters from universities were absent on vacation on election day, one may arrive at the conclusion that voter turnout was low because university students were absent. Now that university students have returned from vacation it gives a prospect that the 2nd round vote on 14 March 2018 could be characterized with an increase in voter turnout.

However, if one considers the attitudes and behaviours of the young adult generation of Mozambicans towards democracy and elections this relationship could be seen as spurious. Whilst born-frees grew up democratic and free from authoritarian governments, a study based on public opinion data from Afrobarometer’s nationally representative multi-stratified samples of the adult population shows that born-frees are less likely to be committed democrats, less likely to understand democracy, and are less likely to vote in elections than older generations of Mozambicans.[vi] This suggests that the presence of university students during the 2nd round by-election vote may make no statistical difference in increasing voter turnout.

Another factor to consider is whether those people who voted for the third, fourth and fifth placed candidates in the 1st round (MDM, AMUSSI and PAHUMO), will re-cast their vote for a different candidate in the 2nd round vote or abstain.

Some view that MDM supporters tend to be young and urban.[vii] But, as MDM is not competing in the 2nd round by-election, we reflect on whether those young MDM supporters, not present in the 1st round, will be willing to participate to vote for Renamo, as MDM officers have appealed.[viii]

We also reflect on PAHUMO and AMUSSI supporters, whose leaders have not appealed for them to vote for either Frelimo or Renamo; will they vote in the 2nd round? This is difficult to predict as this is the first time that Mozambique has experienced a 2nd round vote, so there is no precedent to compare it with.  Having reflected on this, with history of low voter turnout in this constituency, we believe that voter turnout for the 2nd round by-election will remain low and could potentially be even lower.



[i] Carlos Shenga holds a doctorate degree in political studies, University of Cape Town, and is the founder of the Centre for Research on Governance and Development (CPGD).

[ii] Shenga, C., (2018) “Perspectives on the 2018 Forthcoming Nampula City By-election” CPGD Briefing Paper No 3.

[iii] Context matters. See Johnson, M, et al. (2002) “Contextual data and the study of elections and voting behavior: connecting individuals to environments”. Electoral Studies, Vol 21 (2).

[iv] During the 1st round of the 2018 Nampula City by-election, on 24 January, university students were on vacation. Most of Nampula’s university students that come from other cities and towns had returned to their home towns to spent Christmas and New Year with their families, only returning to Nampula City when classes started by mid-February. The 2nd by-election round, on 14 March, will be characterized by the presence of university students in Nampula City.

[v] Shenga, C. (2017) “Born-frees’ Attitudes toward democracy in Mozambique. A Comparative Study of Political Generations”. CPGD Working Paper No 8. Pp 3. 

[vi] Shenga, C. (2017) “Born-frees’ Attitudes toward Democracy in Mozambique. A Comparative Study of Political Generations”. CPGD Working Paper No 8.




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