Pot ready to boil

Swapo's mandatory zebra-style 50-50 gender representation is set to have a major impact on the country's next parliament and cabinet.

30 August 2019 | Politics

Swapo will finally hold its electoral college to elect its candidates for the November National Assembly election, amidst deepening divisions and factionalism.

The electoral college is seen as a tough contest for aspiring parliamentarians, considering the 50/50 National Assembly gender representation policy of the ruling party.

This essentially means that male party members who have over the years dominated the electoral college now have their numerical dominance curtailed.

The 50/50 gender representation policy became a constitutionally mandatory requirement in 2012 and was first used during the 2013 electoral college, ahead of the 2014 National Assembly and presidential elections.

Swapo won 77 seats in the National Assembly, largely thanks to the third constitutional amendments, which saw parliamentary seats increased to 96 from 72.

Campaigning among party cadres has intensified, while the squabbles over leadership positions have seen some regions delaying the holding of their extraordinary congresses to determine delegates and National Assembly candidates to the electoral college.



'Tough' competition

Political commentator Graham Hopwood expects the electoral college to be a battle between the youth and the old guard.

“I think there will be tough competition for places partly because of the 50/50 quota system. It could well be that, as in 2014, some familiar names will fall by the wayside.

“This is unfortunate because the president may feel he has to keep certain senior Swapo figures in parliament and therefore will fill his allocation for the eight non-voting seats with them instead of people selected for their 'special expertise, status, skill or experience' as mentioned in the constitution,” said Hopwood.

“Slate politics was largely associated with the 2017 congress. Since then most of the party structures have been more closely aligned with the president - so I don't see factionalism playing a major role, although there may be something of a youth versus elders division with some pressure to include more young people in the top 70 candidates.”

Hopwood added that it is a pity that there does not seem to be a way of assessing the performance of MPs over the last four years when considering them for another term.

“For example, we don't really know how the influx of female MPs in 2015 affected parliament and what kind of beneficial impact they might have had.”







Another local commentator, Ndumba Kamwanyah, believes the gender and age factors are variables to look out for at next week's gathering, while slate politics should not be ruled out.



“That's a group-think process in action where people will be voted based on camp affiliation, disregarding gender and age. I think slate and camp politics is what we are going to witness playing out during the electoral college,” he said.



“The Swapo Party has lost its mojo where individual traits/skills/experiences/credentials were good enough to earn you a ticket to the pot. Nowadays the camp within Swapo that you associate yourself with determines your election at the electoral college.”







Composition



Close to 244 delegates drawn from the party's central committee, 14 regions, youth, women and elders wings will take part in the elections. As a Swapo affiliate, the National Union of Namibian Workers (NUNW) is also supposed to elect candidates to represent it at the electoral college. Current Swapo MPs who are part of the central committee also automatic delegates to the 'pot'.



The central committee is made up of 84 members, including President Hage Geingob, who is expected to be confirmed as the party's presidential candidate at the electoral college.



Each region will send six delegates, two of whom are National Assembly candidates. The Swapo Party Women's Council has the constitutional privilege of sending ten delegates, while the Swapo Party Youth League and Swapo Party Elders Council are represented by six delegates each. The current 48 Swapo MPs in the National Assembly will also be allowed to take part by virtue of not being part of the central committee.



So far only the top four are safe. With Geingob expected to be the ruling party's presidential candidate, vice-president Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah will top the parliamentary list, followed by party SG Sophia Shaningwa and deputy SG Marco Hausiku.



The electoral college then has to elect 83 candidates, while Geingob will have to appoint an additional ten members to make up the 96-member list to be submitted to the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN).



Local lawyer Sisa Namandje will once again supervise and oversee the elections that will be held at a Windhoek hotel.

JEMIMA BEUKES AND FESTUS NAKATANA

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