Scramble for urban vote

Social commentator Frederico Links argues that judging from the results of last year's general election, the country's urban centres seem to be ripe for opposition gains during this year's regional and local authority polls.

14 January 2020 | Politics

This year's regional and local authority elections could produce another watershed moment in politics, with analysts predicting tight contests, especially in urban areas.





The tipping point, analysts say further, was the November 2019 general election in which the Swapo behemoth conceded support to opposition parties, while its presidential candidate Hage Geingob lost about 30% of his 2014 support to independent candidate Panduleni Itula.

Swapo's share of the vote plummeted from 80% in 2014 to 65% last year, which shattered its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. It will have 14 fewer seats in the National Assembly when the new parliament is sworn in later this year.

Analysts described these results as a “political awakening” that would encourage more people to register and participate in this year's regional and local authority elections, with the wildcard being the Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement, which has indicated it will be contesting for the right to govern the City of Windhoek.

While Swapo lost 14 seats in the National Assembly election last year, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) almost tripled its seats, while new kid on the block, the Landless People's Movement (LPM), scored an impressive four seats on its debut in Namibian politics.

According to political commentator Ndumba Kamwanyah, this trend will certainly energise supporters of opposition politics, especially those who are driving the independent candidate phenomenon and supporters of the LPM.

“They are likely to turn out in numbers, including those who did not vote. So it's a tough battle for the ruling party, and we are likely to see it perform poorly, especially in the areas where the independent candidate and opposition parties won (last year), such as Walvis Bay, Windhoek and the south. It also seems to me that the ruling party is struggling to field the right candidates, especially in this era of a hunger for youthful candidates,” Kamwanyah said.



Local is lekker

As the saying goes, “all politics is local”, and Kamwanyah stressed that local authority elections are very important in terms of both local and national politics.

He explained that good performances by independent candidates and the opposition would mean that the ruling party was losing its dominance in Namibian politics.

“Independent candidates and opposition parties winning also mean a good opportunity for them to get connected to local voters, [to] understand their issues and exposure for future reference, if they wish to run at national level. Therefore, winning local elections is a great platform and opportunity for the winners to shine, mobilise and get exposed to the voters, especially if they deliver on the promises,” Kamwanyah said.

He adds that having a National Council dominated by independent candidates and opposition parties would bring interesting dynamics in terms of the two chambers' working relationship.

“But it would provide a good balance in terms of the quality of the debate and policies to be passed. Gone are the days where a bill would sail through the first house to the second house at the speed of light.”



Ripe for gains

Social commentator Frederico Links argued that judging from the November elections, the major urban centres, including Windhoek, seem to be ripe for opposition gains, which suggests that there is a strategy to take over the administration of the City of Windhoek.

He is, however, not convinced that the opposition candidates inspire much enthusiasm, given the task they've set themselves, but that the answer may lay with younger, more energetic candidates.

“Candidates who are savvy in urban ways and can speak to the needs of an urban electorate would have been more appropriate in my estimation.

“The candidates put forward, especially by the PDM and LPM, will probably turn out to be a missed opportunity. This will play into the favour of the ruling party and its nondescript candidate. I think AR might stir the pot quite a bit this year, if it follows through on trying to gain control of the City, while the PDM and LPM could be kicking themselves over miscalculations,” Links said.

He added that Swapo cannot afford to take its grassroots support for granted any longer, as its own supporters and members are becoming a challenge for the party to manage.

According to him, a similar drop in overall support at regional and local level, as was witnessed at national level, is highly likely.

“It would be interesting to see this year if voters are rejuvenated to go to the polls at regional and local level, which have traditionally been low turnout elections, as many don't appear to rate these lower-level elections as important,” Links added.



By-elections

An acid test for Swapo will be tomorrow's by-elections in key constituencies.

In the Gobabis Constituency, the LPM has fielded Binga Sylvester Daniel, while Kauesa Lucega Elvis is standing as an independent candidate, Modise Ellemerius Braynie for the PDM and Tebele Augustinus for Swapo. In the Keetmanshoop Constituency, the candidates are /Goagoseb Abraham for the PDM, Minnaar Maxie Meliza for the LPM and Shilimela Festus for Swapo.

In the Khomasdal Constituency, the candidates are Angolo Samuel for Swapo, Mara Baumgartner for the LPM, Diergaardt Raymond Reginald for the PDM and Kauahuma Bartholomeus Tjiunomuinjo for Swanu.

In the Walvis Bay Constituency, the candidates are Hoaeb Richard for the PDM, two independent candidates - Jason Kenneth Iilonga and Knowledge Nduge Iipinge - and Sirie Topulathana for Swapo.

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JEMIMA BEUKES

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