SWAPO gets bigger seal of approval
Windhoek – The Namibian electorate has responded positively to the ruling Swapo Party’s appeal to give it another mandate to lead the country and continue to build on the strong foundation that the former liberation movement established over the last two decades.
The party ran its political campaigns prior to the elections on the premise of past government achievements and pledged to continue the economic and social development of the country, as espoused in its election manifesto themed: “Consolidating Peace, Stability and Prosperity”.
And on November 28, the overwhelming majority of Namibians voted in favour of Swapo and its presidential candidate Dr Hage Geingob to give it a landslide victory against a determined pack of opposition political parties.
In the belated results that were announced by the chairperson of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), Notemba Tjipueja on December 1, Geingob, who is also Namibia’s Prime Minister, received an overwhelming electoral mandate as the country’s next Head of State with 86.7 percent of the total vote.
Geingob defeated eight others, while his party Swapo trounced 15 other political parties in the parliamentary polls, winning 77 seats in the 96-member National Assembly, with opposition parties scrambling for the remaining 19 seats.
Electoral statistics show that Geingob’s overwhelming performance has set a new standard in the country’s electoral record. For the first time since the first democratic elections were held in November 1989, a presidential candidate garnered over 80 percent of the total votes cast.
The president-elect received 772 528 out of 890 738 of the votes cast on 28 November, while Swapo also reached a milestone after receiving 715 026 out of the 893 643 total votes.
Geingob, who has attributed his landslide victory to the “will of God” has promised to be humble and serve all Namibians.
His closest rival, McHenry Venaani of the DTA of Namibia got 4.9 percent of the total votes, while Hidipo Hamutenya whose party lost the official opposition party’s tag to the former, got 3.4 percent.
“I will be the president for all Namibian people,” Geingob said during the announcement of the election results at the ECN headquarters in the capital on December 1.
The president-elect, who will succeed incumbent President Hifikepunye Pohamba, said his mission would be to ensure that no Namibian is left out.
“As the next president, I have a responsibility that I cannot carry out without the support of the Namibian people,” he said, adding that he would also work with the opposition.</p>
Geingob will be inaugurated as Namibia’s third democratically elected president since March 1990 on March 21, 2015.
The poor performance by the splintered opposition parties has ensured that Swapo’s stranglehold on the country’s political landscape since independence will continue unabated for the next five years.
The opposition parties have for many years ignored calls from analysts that they must band together by forming a coalition, if they were to be successful in curtailing Swapo’s political dominance.
Out of the 15 opposition parties that took part in the National Assembly elections, only nine have managed to secure seats in parliament with the DTA of Namibia topping the list.
DTA, under the leadership of the youthful McHenry Venaani, came a distant second to Swapo in the parliamentary polls obtaining 42 933 votes, and winning five seats in the National Assembly. The current official opposition party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) got 31 372 votes, managing three seats. It is a triumph of some sort for the DTA, which has increased its seats by three (it has two in the current parliament), while the RDP lost five seats (it has eight in the current parliament).
Others that are heading to parliament are the All People’s Party (APP), National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo), United Democratic Front of Namibia (UDF), and Workers’ Revolutionary Party (WRP) with two seats each.
The Republican Party of Namibia (RP), Swanu of Namibia, and the United People’s Movement (UPM) will all send one representative each to parliament next year.
Former official opposition, the Congress of Democrats (CoD) lost out together with the Christian Democratic Voice (CDV), Democratic Party of Namibia (DPM), Monitor Action Group (MAG), Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), and the National Democratic Party of Namibia (NDPN).
Venaani’s spirited cross-country campaign, including a brief relocation to one of the underdeveloped parts of capital Windhoek (at Ombili informal settlement), and riding to political venues in donkey carts has helped him revive a party that was teetering on the verge of political demise.
The DTA, which was originally an amalgamation of a number of political parties at its formation in the late 1970s, has received several knocks and bumps along the way, which has contributed to its decline.
The party started to wobble after several members of the coalition such as Nudo, RP and UDF pulled out to stand as independent political parties.
But with his ascendance to the party leadership towards the end of last year, replacing veteran politician Katutire Kaura, Venaani has managed to turn the DTA’s fortunes – now with an official opposition party tag in the next parliament.
This resurgence has subjected the Rally for Democracy and Progress to the inexplicable curse that seems to befall new political formations in Namibia, which go into decline, after their debut in national elections.
Having been launched in November 2007 by some disgruntled former Swapo members, including its leader Hidipo Hamutenya, the party performed fairly at the 2009 general elections winning eight seats in the National Assembly. The same fate befell the Congress of Democrats, which after its formation in 1998 by former Swapo stalwart Ben Ulenga won five seats in the 2004 elections, which made it the second-largest party in the National Assembly.
Despite being outnumbered in the next parliament, DTA president Venaani has promised to keep the ruling party and president-elect Geingob on their toes, and give advice where needed to take Namibia forward.
“It is not only when we lose that we become enemies, but we must become bigger friends to make sure we build our country,” he remarked during the official announcement of the elections at the ECN offices.
Free and Fair But…
The 2014 Presidential and National Assembly elections in Namibia that were held against the backdrop of the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) for the first time on the African continent also received a bill of approval from international election observers.
The SADC Electoral Observation Mission, the SADC Parliamentary Forum as well as the African Union have declared the polls “were peaceful, transparent, free and fair, and credible, reflecting the will of the people of the Republic of Namibia”.
The European Union delegation in Namibia has also congratulated Namibians who participated in the election in high numbers and in a peaceful manner.
“Namibia has once again demonstrated its democratic convictions and respect for Constitutional presidential term limits,” the delegation said in statement.
In his congratulatory message issued through United States Embassy in Windhoek, US Secretary of State, John Kerry, congratulated Namibia on its successful elections saying the southern African country once again demonstrated its commitment to an open electoral process and respect for presidential term limits.
“We applaud the active participation of Namibia’s political parties, civil society and citizens in shaping an inclusive discussion throughout the campaign,” Kerry was quoted as saying.
Meanwhile, the observers have made a few recommendations that they want ironed out to smoothen the electoral process in future.
Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza, who led the AU Election Observer Mission, has encouraged the Namibian parliament to make amendments to the electoral law, which will regulate sources of party funding and provide mandatory ceilings on campaign budgets to ensure fair access to resources among political parties.
The South African Minister of International Relations and Co-operation, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who led the SADC Observer Mission, noted delays in the opening of some polling stations due to polling officials’ lack of clarity on the use of EVMs, which was due to failure to operate them and constant breakdown of the verification devices in some cases.
The SADC mission has recommended that the ECN and other stakeholders intensify civic and voter education throughout the electoral cycle.
It added that ECN should also provide a special voting day for security and law enforcement personnel, as well as essential workers.
Jacob Francis Mudenda, who headed the SADC Parliamentary Forum, noted that the ECN needed to make improvements in areas such as legal provisions regarding the period during which the commission is obliged to officially publish the election results in order to avoid the possibility of conflict and public anxiety.
The Speaker of the Zimbabwean Parliament also emphasised the need for adequate time to fully operationalise and publicise, including through voter education, any new legal provisions among stakeholders, in particular the electorate, before elections in order to enhance trust and credibility of the electoral process.
He further stated that the ECN needs to pay attention to the streamlining of voting steps to make the process simpler and faster, while noting that the commission should also develop areas such as the need to ensure that only presiding officers are tasked with assisting voters.
Meanwhile, Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who has been at the helm as the Head of State since March 21, 2005, has called on political parties and all Namibians to respect the election outcome.
“I urge all our people to respect and honour the voice of the people. The nation has spoken. Let us now join hands and put shoulders to the wheels to develop our country, improve the living conditions of our people and take Namibia to greater heights of prosperity,” the President said.
“The people have spoken. Democracy is alive and healthy in Namibia. Our country now has a President-elect and members of parliament-elect, who await to be sworn in to serve our people.
“I take this opportunity to congratulate the entire nation on the successful holding of free and fair democratic elections.
“This is another demonstration that multi-party democracy has grown deep roots in our country as our chosen system of governance.
“This is another important milestone in the process of consolidating democracy and nation building.
We are proud that over the past 24 years of our independence, Namibia has conducted five rounds of democratic General Elections,” he said.
While addressing Cabinet at State House on December 2, President Pohamba noted that the landslide victory of the governing party, signify the higher expectations of the Namibian nation.
“In the light of the recent elections it is important to be cognisant of the fact that the larger the victory, the higher the expectations of our people. We must therefore pause and deeply reflect on achievements recorded and shortcomings encountered.” – Additional reporting by Nampa