Bulldozing days over
The ruling party's loss of two-thirds parliamentary majority means it may no longer amend the country's constitution willy-nilly, as has become the norm.
02 December 2019 | Local News
Swapo lost its two-thirds majority for the first time since 1994 after it got 65% of the vote, translating to 63 seats in the lower house of parliament. The party received 80% in the last election in 2014, winning itself 77 seats out of the total of 96.
It marks the first time that the party's stronghold on parliament has been removed since 1994, when it gained its first two-thirds majority.
Without its two-thirds majority, Swapo will not be able to amend the constitution like it did in 1999, when it gave former president Sam Nujoma an additional term in office. It will also not be able to force through constitutional amendments like it did in 2014 that allowed for the creation of the vice-president position.
Those amendments also increased National Assembly seats from 72 to 96.
Swapo will also not be able to amend existing legislation without backing from the opposition, as was the case with the Marine Resources Act in 2015.
Ironically, it was this amendment that allowed former fisheries minister Bernhardt Esau to allocate fishing quotas to Icelandic company Samherji, through state-owned enterprise Fishcor, allegedly in return for kickbacks.
Esau has been arrested in connection with the bribery scandal and is expected in court today for a bail hearing with five other suspects in the matter.
Geingob secured 56% of the votes in 2019, down from the smashing 87% he had gained in 2014 when he was elected as president for the first time.
It was also the first time in the country's history that a Swapo presidential candidate gained lesser votes than the party.
The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) made massive inroads, securing 16% of the votes cast, up from the 5% it managed to get in 2014. The official opposition has thus tripled its parliamentary seats from five to 16.
New kids on the block, the Landless People's Movement (LPM), secured 4% of the votes cast, translating into four seats in the National Assembly.
Former official opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress' downward spiral continued unabated, with the party securing a single seat for its president Mike Kavekotora.
The party got eight seats in 2009 when it made its debut in a national election.
The United Democratic Front (UDF), the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo), Namibian Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) and the Republican Party (RP) each got two seats. The Christian Democratic Voice (CDV) and Swanu got one seat each, while the Congress of Democrats (CoD), United People's Movement (UPM) and Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) did not make it to parliament.
Despite the good showing by the opposition, the results in some constituencies are being challenged. Opposition party leaders were also conspicuous in their absence at the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) when Geingob was declared the winner, save for Nudo's Esther Muinjangue, on Saturday evening.
Swapo may eye alliances
Commenting on the results, constitutional law expert Professor Nico Horn said while Swapo had lost its dominance in parliament, it could still potentially enforce its preferred legal amendments.
“With the growth of smaller parties; Swapo could get an alliance party. They just need one person to support their any amendments that the part may want to make in the future. It is an emotional thing, in practice, it is not going to change anything,” he said.
Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah welcomed the development, saying it would improve accountability.
“It is about checks and balances. The two-thirds majority meant that they could make unilateral decisions at the legislative and executive branches of government,” said Kamwanyah. According to him, it was now up to the opposition parties to bring their part to the table.
“We hope the opposition will bring their fight to the party,” he said.
The loss of support for Geingob and Swapo, Kamwanyah said, also showed that the electorate had lost faith.
“It is a big message for President Geingob and Swapo. The president and the party have a divided mandate. It is up to them to interpret what it means, the people are not happy with the way things have been done,” he said.
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) director Graham Hopwood said improvements on the ground could see citizens support Geingob again.
“If people see improvements on the ground they will warm to Swapo again. A more humble and responsive approach to leadership could help him win back support,” said Hopwood.
He was concerned that Geingob could potentially react negatively to the loss of support.
“The 30% loss in support for president Geingob is dramatic. It is unclear how he and the government will react to this. They could retreat further into their shells and become more dismissive of criticism. If they do that they could pay a high political cost as I think the constant denial of responsibility and beating down of valid criticism is one factor that has annoyed many voters,” Hopwood said.
Hopwood also felt that it was time for Geingob to change his tune on corruption and, instead of making excuses such processes, systems and institutions behind which he often hides, take immediate action on things that are within his purview such as removing the corrupt and those charged with corruption from the party list.
“Instead of always blaming external factors he also needs to accept a measure of responsibility for the state of the economy as well,” he added.