Pathetic voter turnout 'unsurprising'

18 June 2019 | Local News

Commentators are unsurprised by the pathetic voter turnout that was recorded during the David vs Goliath showdown between Swapo and 27-year-old independent candidate Angelina Immanuel that played out at Ondangwa at the weekend.

Over 15 000 people were expected to vote, but only 3 792 votes were cast.

Swapo candidate Leonard Negonga is the new Ondangwa Urban constituency councillor after receiving 1 936 votes, while Immanuel garnered 1 402 votes.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate Johannes Martin received 326 votes, while All People's Party's (APP) Asser Vincent got 97 votes.

Mandume Tuhafeni of the Congress of Democrats (CoD) could only muster 31 votes. Swapo's vote dropped significantly from 92% in 2015 to 51% this time around.

During the 2015 election, 4 267 votes were cast, with Swapo receiving 3 918, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) 117 and the PDM 232.

According to political analyst Graham Hopwood there is really not much to read into the low voter turnout in the Ondangwa Urban by-election.

He pointed out there is always a very low voter turnout in regional council elections, adding that this weekend's turnout was not unusual.

“I think the voters have a sense that regional councillors are not that important. They are not like national elections, therefore they do not go out to vote. There are two factors maybe; one would just be the general state of the economy. If most people are just trying to survive and get by, and are not really that interested in party politics, they would not necessarily be enthusiastic to go out and vote,” he said.

Hopwood said another factor could be that many people living in the Ondangwa Urban constituency right now probably do not have voters' cards because they are not from that town.

“Ondangwa Urban probably had quite a movement of population in the past five years. And others who have their voters' cards may have moved away from the town, so that could have also affected the turnout,” he said.

Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro emphasised their mandate is to conduct voter education and that the low voter turnout cannot be blamed on the ECN.

He said ECN's voter education is an aggressive campaign, but there is a need for Namibia to determine why voters are willing to register but not cast their votes.

He added that voter education should be a collective task by all stakeholders, in order to ensure that people come out and participate and perform their civic duty.

“So as Namibians are pondering on this issue, trying to seek answers, they must understand that some people go and register but for some reason they decide against voting. Nobody can say that the polling stations were too far, therefore I could not go. So political parties must explain to the nation whey we observe voter apathy,” he said.

When contacted for comment Swapo secretary-general Sophia Shaningwa said: “I do not have time now.”

JEMIMA BEUKES

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