Final polls push

As Namibia’s 1.3 million registered voters prepare to head to the polling stations on Wednesday, political parties and presidential candidates have a final round of weekend rallies to sweet-talk them.

22 November 2019 | Politics

JEMIMA BEUKES



An election, which has earthquake potential, will see a potential 717 809 female voters and 640 659 males heading to the polls on Wednesday. A whopping 403 106 of registered voters are born-frees (those born in 1990 and after).

This weekend’s last round of political rallies are the last chance presidential candidates and parties have to attract votes to their side of the country’s political divide.

Swapo, the official opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) as well as independent candidate Panduleni Itula will have their final star rallies in Windhoek this weekend.

The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) too will be in Windhoek and will kick off their rally with a roadshow while the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) will host their final rally in Keetmanshoop on Sunday.

Nudo too will have their main rally in Windhoek and has urged Namibians to go in numbers to the polling stations.

Swanu will be preaching its message of change in Gobabis and Windhoek on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

“Change is a law of nature and it depends on them to change the status quo. If they have realised with the recent exposed of corrupt officials, the country is rotten to the bone,” said Swanu president Dr Tangeni Iijambo.

Campaign messages

Swapo presidential candidate Hage Geingob has consistently said on the campaign trail that the turnout of thousands of supporters demonstrated that Swapo will receive overwhelming votes in the Presidential and National Assembly polls.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani has called on the electorate to go out in numbers and vote for his party, as it will not tolerate corruption, while making reference to the unfolding fishing bribery saga that has claimed the heads of two Swapo cabinet ministers Sacky Shanghala and Bernhardt Esau.

Independent presidential candidate Itula has created a bridgehead for his head of state ambitions by consistently claiming there is nothing wrong with Swapo, while saying the current crop of party leaders are letting down the party and the country, while seemingly being captured by a group of elites and their cronies.

LPM leader Bernadus Swartbooi has described fellow opposition parties as “young donkeys” that are being led around by their noses by Swapo.

RDP and its presidential candidate Mike Kavekotora have claimed their manifesto’s intention is to unite all citizens of the proverbial Namibian house, particularly because of the country's divided history.

The country's current administration only favours the powerful and rich, and remains unfair towards the poor living in rural areas, according to Swanu’s Iijambo, who also wants dagga decriminalised.

Nudo has promised a welfare state and promised to address the country's mushrooming informal settlements.

Unpredictable

Political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah also believes that there is a likelihood that Namibia may end up with a rerun in the presidential race.

Provisional results from the special voting that took place on 13 November had Geingob and Itula running neck in neck.

Political commentator Graham Hopwood said he thinks a rerun is unlikely, but not impossible.

“I would expect Geingob still to win comfortably, but with much lower than what he had last time (87%). It is a difficult thing to predict, especially with the independent candidate. It looks to me that he will take away quite a few votes from Geingob, but not enough to cause a rerun,” he said.

In an opinion piece he published yesterday Hopwood wrote, however, that “a stumbling economy, a surprise presidential candidate and a major corruption scandal have combined to make these elections Namibia’s most competitive yet. Swapo still looks nailed on to win the National Assembly – and probably retain its two-thirds majority – but President Geingob may be punished in the presidential poll.”

Standoff

Kamwanyah said the presidential election will be a standoff between Geingob and Itula.

“From the look of things it’s going to be a close race, but safe to say that Geingob will bag it due to the northern regions, especially the twin Kavango regions and the Zambezi Region. He has a strong support in the four-O regions, but voter apathy cannot be ruled out. In urban towns and among young voters, I expect Itula to sail through on top. Adding, the opposition party candidates to the mix, we may end up with a rerun situation,” he said.

Itula’s candidacy, in his view, certainly injected a new sense of competition in the country’s politics.

“It’s no longer business as usual for the ruling party, where in previous elections it was certain of a decisive victory at both party and presidential level.

“This time it appears that the Swapo party' two-third majority is under threat. Its presidential candidate is also under tremendous threat, due the independent candidate, internal party divisions, an enraged electorate, energised youth, corruption and worsening economic conditions,” he said.

According to him, the PDM’s constituencies are still intact, which will ensure them a soft landing, while new kid on the block the LPM may do much better in the south of the country and among young voters.

Messages

Analysts also observed that politicians will be able to sway the electorate with promises of peace and stability propagated, which have been repeated by Swapo. The ruling party has also warned that its opponents are hell-bent destroying the country’s peace through tribalism.

“The second message is that of change versus the status quo, capitalised on by the opposition parties, and especially the independent candidate. Corruption, the worsening economic situation, youth rage and business as usual politics are some of the factors driving the change message,” he said.

Kamwanyah believes that in the final stretch, Swapo will focus on highlighting its achievements under Geingob and also stress the importance of unity and peace to the country.

On the other hand, he believes the opposition will focus on the ruling party's failure, especially corruption, youth unemployment and the declining economic situation.

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