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Preliminary Report on the upcoming General and Presidential Elections 2014 in Namibia

On a Friday, 28 November 2014, the Namibians are going to vote a new Parliament and a new President for the sixth time. 16 Parties and nine Presidential Candidates compete against each other. The election day has been declared a national holiday. For the first time in Namibia, there will be only one election day.

In Namibia, the President is voted directly by the people who have one vote. Therefore, the General and the Presidential Elections are two separate voting procedures that both take place on the election day. For the general elections, in which the new parliament is voted for, there is only one vote for a party list as well.

No ballot paper but voting machines

For the first time, Namibia will vote with voting machines that had been discussed for several years. The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) travels the country to present the ma-chines from India to the people at the moment. On the machine one can change his or her vote as often as it is wanted. Only by pressing the red button on the bottom the vote is definite and irrevocable. It is not possible to give an invalid vote which is a theoretical problem. However, it remains a problem that is not dealt with in public.

Non-Governmental Organizations as well opposition parties have claimed vehemently that the voting machines do not provide paper trails. The critics argue that this makes exposing manipulation of the voting machines impossible as one cannot count the votes manually. When the polling stations close at 9 o’clock in the evening, there is only the need for just one push of a button to receive the election results. Thus, a quicker counting of the votes is made possible.

As 16 parties have registered for the General Elections and there is only space for 15 on the voting machines, the double amount of voting machines is needed. The ECN thus decided to reduce the number of polling stations from almost 4000 to 2076. This includes fixed as well as mobile polling stations. The latter will go from settlement to settlement on the election day.

It is possible in Namibia to vote at a polling station where one has not been registered. To avoid multiple voting in different polling stations, every voter gets ink on his fingers.

Unchallenged Ruling Party

The SWAPO Party (former South-West Africa People’s Organization) governs Namibia since its independence in 1990 with a two-third-majority. A survey by the „Institute for Public Policy Research“ (IPPR) foresees a clear victory of SWAPO. In their Afrobarometer, which was published in October 2014, 65% of the respondents said they would vote for the SWAPO candidate if the Presidential Elections were tomorrow. Thus, it is no question whether or not the SWAPO will win the upcoming elections but rather if they will manage get a two-third-majority again.

Constitutional Amendments just before the Elections

Only three months before the General and Presidential elections, the National Assembly has passed the Third Constitutional Amendment Bill in the history of Namibia. There was no referendum and also the opposition parties claim insufficient consultations. Representatives of the civil society founded an association with the name “My Constitution, My Decision” and organized a demonstration of 250 people in front of the Parliament. SWAPO refuses the criticism from the opposition and further argues that the deputies are voted by the people meaning they represent them and do not need to conduct a referendum.

The Constitutional Amendments have enlarged the Parliamentary accessory. The number of deputies rises from 72 up to 96 in the National Assembly and from two to three deputies per region in the National Council. Critics say the reason for this enlargement is the recently introduced gender quota which obliges the party to put a woman onto every second position of the party list. By enlarging the size of the Parliament, merited deputies can stay in Parliament although the quota has led to worse positions on the list for them. However, some of those old deputies such as the President of the National Assembly, Theo-Ben Gurirab, have been put onto unpromising position on the SWAPO’s party list.

Furthermore, the President from now on appoints the regional councilors of the fourteen Namibian provinces which in turn make them dependent on the President rather than the people. Additionally, a Vice President will be appointed by the President. After all, one can observe an enlargement of political accessory as well as a concentration of power at the President.

For the first time no Ovambo candidate

As the Namibian constitution only allows for two terms of office per President, the SWAPO was urged to find a new Presidential candidate. This year, the party has nominated a candidate who for the first time is no Ovambo: Dr Hage Geingob. It is likely that this is one reason for creating the job of a Vice President who will then be an Ovambo most probably. The Ovambo people mostly live in Northern Namibias and represent around the half of Namibias 2.1 million inhabitants. Geingob, who is a Damara, was Namibias first Prime Minister from 1990 to 2002 and works in the same position since 2012 again. Now he will be voted as the new President. As the Namibian President is voted directly, his results will be interpreted as an indicator on what role tribalism is still playing in Namibia. Within his party Geingob is said to be weak with many opponents.

In the election campaign, Geingob is presented in one row with Namibias first President, Sam Nujoma, and the outgoing President, Hifikepunye Pohamba, as their natural successor. Thereby, the SWAPO party concentrates on highlighting what it has achieved since independence rather than what it wants to achieve in the future. The party’s main message is that it has brought independence and peace to Namibia.

Which Party is going to be the official Opposition?

Another interesting issue of the upcoming elections is the question of which opposition party gains most of the votes. The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) that was founded in 2009 as a secession of SWAPO became the strongest opposition party in the same year with eleven percent of the votes. The second strongest opposition party was the Democratic Turnhalle Allianz (DTA) that received three percent.

With McHenry Venaani the DTA has nominated a young and dynamic man as their Presiden-tial candidate. It is expected that he will receive votes from outside of his party and that his party will benefit from his popularity as well. The RDP has nominated their President Hidipo Hamutenya – just as in 2009. Compared to Venaani, Hamutenya is less dynamic. Venaani understands to place his messages in the media and, therefore, receives more attention by the public.

Because of these reasons one can expect that RDP and DTA will come closer together in terms of their size in the National Assembly. Still, the chances to become the biggest opposition party are better for the RDP.

All opposition parties – if they are big or small – name the same goals during their campaign-ing, for example an improvement of education, a land reform and affordable housing for all Namibians. Broad and comprehensive concepts, however, do not find their way through to the media. Thus, the opposition parties fail to appeal trustworthy whereas SWAPO concentrates on what has been done in the past in their campaign. The opposition parties further fail to specify their criticism on the government. The election campaign therefore goes without remarkable conflicts and scandals so far.

On 28 November 2014 Dr Hage Geingob will be elected Namibias next President most probably. His SWAPO party will again reach a convenient majority in the National Assembly. The only open question is: How big is the opposition going to be.