Ready, steady, vote!

More than 1.3 million Namibians have registered to vote in today’s elections, dubbed the most competitive since 1989.

27 November 2019 | Politics

CATHERINE SASMAN



More than 1.3 million Namibian voters will decide the fate of the country for the next five years when they vote in today’s presidential and National Assembly elections.

Analysts regard this as the most crucial election since the one that brought the country democracy in 1989 due to an avalanche of dynamics.

While the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) yesterday said it was ready for today’s showdown, on the other side of town were army generals announcing that they were aware of alleged threats of political violence should the results not go in their favour.

“What is most surprising is the fact that the issuers of threats are purportedly doing so on behalf of certain candidates, however, none amongst those political parties or presidential candidates have ever condemned or distanced themselves from these threats,” Air Vice-Marshal Martin Kambulu Pinehas said in a statement late yesterday.

“The NDF, as the guarantor of national security, sovereignty, peace and stability has taken these threats seriously and has therefore elevated the security level and taken the necessary measures to protect national key points and the citizens,” he added.

Polling stations across the country open at 07:00 this morning where 1 358 468 Namibian voters are expected to cast their votes in the presidential and National Assembly elections.

It means if all registered voters were to cast their vote without any ballots spoiled, 14 150 votes would be required for a single seat in the National Assembly.

If turnout is 75%, 10 600 votes would be needed per seat. A low turnout of 50% would mean 7 075 votes are needed per seat.

Voting closes at 21:00 tonight, but the ECN has assured that everyone who had joined the queue before that time would be allowed to vote.

The chairperson of the ECN, Advocate Notemba Tjipueja, assured the nation that the commission was committed to free, fair, transparent, and credible elections.

Her assurance came hot on the heels of a ruling this week by the Electoral Tribunal, which dismissed an urgent application by independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula, who had challenged the use of EVMs without a paper trail.

The tribunal ruled that his application lacked urgency.

Tjipueja encouraged all political parties, candidates, members and supporters to abide by the provisions of the code of conduct for political parties and the fundamental rights and duties of voters.

Tjipueja said the 2019 elections got off a good start on 13 November when seafarers, members of the defence and police forces, and Namibians living abroad could cast special votes.

Tjipueja said the special elections were conducted in a peaceful and calm atmosphere – which also prevailed throughout the country during the pre-election period - and no incidents of violence or intimidation were reported to the ECN.

The results of votes cast in the special elections will be collated by the returning officers along with the rest of the votes after the close of the polls today.

The theme of this year’s elections is ‘Promoting Inclusive Participation’, underscoring the importance of participation by all eligible individuals and groups in Namibian society, including marginalised communities and people living with disabilities.

There are eleven presidential candidates. Republican Party leader Henk Mudge and his Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) counterpart Efrans Mukwillongo belatedly withdrew from the presidential race, hence their names remain on the ballot papers.

The RP and NEFF had approached the ECN to withdraw their presidential candidates, but the ECN declined to do so because the requests were made after the closure of the nomination of candidates on 18 October.

Fifteen political parties will contest the National Assembly election.

EVMs discontent

The ECN reiterated it would use electronic voting machines (EVMs) without a voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT), which means the provision of the Electoral Act that stipulates the use of a VVPAT for electronic voting remains suspended.

A total of 2 540 EVMs were deployed to 4241 fixed and mobile polling stations across the country.

The ECN said all EVMs had undergone a “first-level check” before being used in the elections. A total of 6 080 EVMs were checked between 9 and 24 September to ensure they were all in order, the ECN said.

Tjipueja said all political parties were invited to witness these checks.

Announcement of results

Presiding officers at each polling station will post the election results outside the stations.

But the ECN said it would not announce the results of the individual polling stations on any of its platforms.

Instead, the ECN advised political parties to have at least one representative at each of the 121 collation centres in each constituency, where they can get the combined results of votes cast in the constituencies.

The results announced at these collation centres by the returning officers will then be transmitted to the central election result centre (CERC), which is the ECN’s headquarters in Windhoek.

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