Tackle voter apathy first

17 May 2019 | Columns

The upcoming Ondangwa Urban by-election has been enjoying prominent coverage in the mainstream media, with Swapo loyalists and those supporting an independent candidate ruffling each other's feathers.

We have always argued for a new political narrative that broadens participation and holds those in power to account. It is true that we have not yet seen a growing trend of young people showing much interest in politics. But this seems to be changing with the times. It appears that young people, who have for many years been actively excluded from the domain of politics, are now succeeding at shaping the political landscape, including through engaging in pro-democracy movements and pressure groups. However, there is a lingering problem that is a cause for concern. With the general elections due towards the end of the year, one expected both political parties and the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) to go into overdrive and champion the cause of voter education. Voter apathy is a global problem and is not only limited to Namibia or South Africa, where a 65% voter turnout was recorded in last week's general election. In the 2014 presidential elections, about 890 000 Namibians voted out of a registered 1.2 million eligible voters. This means that 310 000 people stayed away from the polling stations on election day. This is a pity and it just shows how important stakeholders don't value the importance of voting and educating the masses out there. The task of getting people to the voting booth is largely left to the ECN in this country and this should not be the case. Political parties, civil society and even the media must pull up their socks and equally promote civic education to teach, especially young people, the significance of participating in elections.

They must play their part in ensuring that effective campaigns are run in terms of the voter registration period. and that voters are energised and ready to cast their ballots on election day.

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