Elections must be credible

16 April 2019 | Columns

There is no iota of doubt that voter education and effective registration campaigns remain a core issue if the Electoral Commission of Namibia is to deliver a credible poll at the end of this year.

All eyes will once again be on the ECN as November approaches, and it is our sincere hope that the electoral body has conducted some sort of audit of its election processes, in order to ensure that it delivers more effectively this time around. During 2014, the ECN was roundly criticised by all and sundry following logistical hiccups at voting centres, as well as for its failure to announce National Assembly and presidential election results on time. Earlier this year, PDM leader McHenry Venaani highlighted some misgivings, while calling into question the ECN's ability to run a credible poll in November, especially if electronic voting machines (EVMs) are once again to be used without a voter-verified paper audit trail. “It becomes a fundamental issue - do we want to have free, fair and credible elections or do we want a frivolous election where the 'victors' can declare themselves winners through frivolous manners,” Venaani was quoted as saying in the Windhoek Observer. While it is almost certain that the ECN will not revert to the use of traditional ballot papers for this year's general election, the expectation is that it should at least build trust and instil confidence, by promoting transparency in its dealings. The run-up to the November vote will definitely be characterised by mudslinging and trash-talk among candidates and their party loyalists. However, the ECN must adopt a neutral position and engage its stakeholders on critical matters, such as the running of effective voter education campaigns, with the aim of sensitising potential first-time voters and others. Voter education must also be rolled out in rural areas, where access to mainstream information is not necessarily the order of the day. Elections are critical accountability mechanisms, and without an element of transparency, there can be no credible vote.

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