The millstone of incumbency

13 October 2020 | Opinion

In a study titled 'Political parties in southern Africa: The state of parties and their role in democratisation' lead author Khabele Matlosa argues succinctly that political parties are the heart of politics in a representative democracy.

However, parties also have the potential to become a political liability to democracy. The study, which took place some years ago, summarises research and interviews with political party leaderships covering 12 SADC countries, including Namibia.

It argues that in a democracy there is no substitute for open competition between political parties in elections. But that throughout the world, political parties are suffering from declining membership and internal fragmentations.

Honing in on Namibia, the study concludes that the Swapo dominance that has marked the political landscape since the democratic transition of 1990 has been made possible in large measure due to the advantages that come with incumbency.

Whatever happens, going forward, on our political landscape it has been refreshing to witness the independent candidacy phenomenon, involving mostly the youth, which challenges the status quo.

What is becoming clear is that incumbency - given the myriad of challenges and issues being experienced in the country – is effectively becoming a millstone for the ruling party.

However, as long as the opposition largely remains fragmented, don't hold your breath for real political change, unless the internal anti-Hage Geingob forces align themselves in a broad-based new party.

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