Opposition refuse to play ball

The parties say they want equal treatment from the electoral commission.

30 October 2019 | Local News

What was expected to be a ceremonial signing of the code of conduct for political parties participating in the upcoming elections turned out to be a vociferous refusal by the majority of opposition parties to sign the document unless the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) provides them with letters that would allow them to be present at the central verification centre (CVC) after the elections.

The opposition parties charged that the ECN previously had allowed only Swapo Party agents and intelligence officers into the verification centre to the exclusion of others.

Many of the parties believe that it was at this verification centre where votes have been “cooked”.

Earlier yesterday morning parties also refused to sign for the verification of the list of candidates and parties to be placed on the electronic voting machines (EVMs). Leading the pack of dissidents at the code of conduct ceremony was Swapo Party member and independent presidential candidate Dr Panduleni Itula, who claimed that parties cannot be forced to sign the code of conduct before having been served with copies of it to study. The parties accused the ECN of being dictatorial and biased in favour of Swapo, with some party members shouting that if the letters for admission to the verification centre were not forthcoming, “Swapo and the ECN could go ahead and have elections on their own”.

ECN officials, however, pointed out that the code of conduct had been gazetted in 1992 already and parties and candidates should have familiarised themselves with its content long before. The only parties that did sign the code of conduct were the ruling Swapo Party and the National Democratic Party (NDP).



Code of conduct

The code of conduct is a voluntary code based on a set of rules of behaviour for political parties and their supporters relating to their participation in an electoral process. The 16-point code of conduct is enforceable in terms of the Electoral Act of 2014. ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja said there are valid justifications, which include sending out a clear “moral message” leaving political parties “open to public scrutiny if they blatantly disregard standards they have undertaken to respect”.

Yesterday's event was supposed to serve as a pledge by political parties to conduct free and fair elections, said ECN commissioner Elsie Nghikembua. Among other things, the code of conduct prohibits any form of intimidation, any weapons of any kind – including traditional weapons – at political rallies or gatherings, and the disruption of other parties' rallies or gatherings. It also bars party members and supporters from seeking to obstruct people from attending rallies or gatherings of other parties. The head of the Namibian police, Inspector-General Sebastian Ndeitunga, said the police would act in an objective, impartial and professional manner towards all political parties and their supporters. “We do not ask which political party people belong to; that is not our business,” Ndeitunga said. He said the aim of the code of conduct was to minimise conflict and intimidation and foster a climate of open, free and fair competition during the electoral process.



Role of the police

“It is our wish that all stages of the electoral process will be conducted without violence, intimidation, coercion or any conduct that can interfere with the free will of the electorate,” Ndeitunga said.

He said the police would monitor party campaigns and candidates, and provide security at the electoral material stores in Windhoek, which is the central depot where all election materials are stored before and during the elections. The police will also provide security at the printing companies, provide police escorts when election materials are in transit, provide security at the polling stations, and exercise other normal policing duties within a 500-metre radius from the polling stations.



CATHERINE SASMAN

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