EVMs 'a threat'

EVMs have been a contentious issue for years and opposition parties feel there has been no credible election since their introduction.

25 January 2019 | Politics

Opposition parties are adamant that the electronic voting machines (EVMs), which are being used in Namibia without a verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) can be manipulated and should be discarded completely.

They also want a return to the good old days of ballot papers if VVPAT is not added.

The issue of EVMs have been a contentious one for years and some parties feel there has been no credible election since their introduction in 2014, when Hage Geingob swept to an 86.73% victory in the presidential election and Swapo garnered 80.01% of the vote.

Republican Party (RP) president Henk Mudge said the VVPAT means nothing.

“We want credible elections and the EVMs are a threat to that. There is no reason why we cannot have the ballot papers back,” he said.

He rejected the Electoral Commission of Namibia's stance that the EVMs improved the voting process.

“It took them a week to verify the results with the EVMs (in 2014), the same time it took with the ballot papers,” said Mudge.

He added that the RP has consulted with other opposition parties and they will, as a collective, make a submission to the ECN on what they think of the EVMs.

The Workers Revolutionary Party (WRP) political secretary Hewat Beukes believes the first issue with the Indian EVMs is the question of sovereignty.

According to Beukes as long as Indian technicians, to the exclusion of Namibian technicians, electronic engineers and scientists, have insight into the EVMs and are operating them exclusively, there can be no talk of Namibian sovereignty.

“This has already been compromised fatally.

Foreign technology is bought with know-how.

It is absurd to allow foreigners to operate national technology,” he said.

He added the WRP's second view is that scientific proof exists that the EVMs can be manipulated by extraneous technology such as cellphones and by programming.

“In addition, Indian technicians were sitting in polling stations working on their cellphones. The very fact that Swapo does not wish to resort to verifiable ballot papers is a clear indication of their intention to rig elections at any costs. The use of EVMs for such a low number of voters is absurd. Ballot papers should be faster.”

All People's Party (APP) secretary-general Vincent Kanyetu said his party does not support the EVMs in their current form.

According to him they are ready to return to the use of ballot papers.

“We have lost all our trust in the EVMs and the ECN,” said Kanyetu.

Political commentator Charles Mubita said the EVMs are an unreliable system.

“A system that raises a lot of issues cannot be relied on. There is a reason why many countries in Europe such as Germany have banned the EVMs, even India. And it creates doubt, but not only with the political opposition, but every participant, even Swapo. The EVMs can even be manipulated by an election officer sent by an opposition party,” he said.

Mubita emphasised there is a need for consensus among all stakeholders on what the best option is.

“The ECN needs to realise that democracy is an expensive exercise. This country's freedom was paid for with blood. We must spend whatever we can to guarantee our democracy. And to guarantee the security of our democracy,” said Mubita.

The ECN has revealed that it will cost Namibia N$160 million to acquire VVPAT functionality for the country's EVMs.

Social commentator Fredericko Links said it is important that the ECN sort out the controversies and suspicions created by the EVMs.

“And there doesn't seem to be any urgency to address these concerns or how to increase the credibility of our elections,” he said.

The opposition have blamed Swapo's massive recent election victories on the EVMs.

The ruling party currently boasts 77 seats in the National Assembly out of the 96 directly elected during the 2014 elections, while a mere 19 seats are shared among the opposition.

ECN chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro maintains that the EVMs have served Namibia well, despite an increasing demand for the VVPAT functionality to be added.

“Should Namibia want to go the DRC option then there is a price tag for that. I think it could be more than N$160 million,” Mujoro said during a recent interview.

“There is the DRC voting technology and there is the VVPAT that we could get from India. Right now it is not possible, because India is holding its Lok Sabha elections in May.

“The manufacturer of the EVMs and the VVPATS for the Indian Electoral Commission is commissioned to manufacturer solely for the Indian electoral commissions. They cannot at this time do jobs for any other country.”


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