Sat, November 21, 2009
World > Africa

Newcomer to shake up Namibian election

2009-11-21 09:46:30 GMT2009-11-21 17:46:30 (Beijing Time)  xinhuanet

JOHANNESBURG, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Everyone who follows Namibian politics knows who is going to win the elections in the vast, mineral-rich, sparsely populated country on the west coast of Southern Africa on Nov. 27-29.

Namibian President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who attracted 76.4 percent of the presidential vote in the previous elections in 2004, is certain to triumph, along with his South West African People’s Organization (Swapo), which attracted 76.1 percent of the votes for the National Assembly in 2004.

Although 12 opposition parties will contest next weekend’s polls, it is turning into a two-horse race between Swapo and the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), with the Swapo horse well in front.

President Pohamba has been criss-crossing the country, reminding voters of his party’s struggle credentials and spreading a message of steady, peaceful development.

Swapo, which fought a liberation war against apartheid South Africa, has convincingly won all elections so far since independence in March 1990. It currently holds 55 of the 72 Assembly seats up for grabs. The only question is whether Swapo will be able to achieve its target of winning all 72 seats.

The next biggest party, the Congress of Democrats, won 7.29 percent of the vote last time to secure five seats, while the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance pulled 5.11 percent to be allocated four seats.

This time Swapo is adamant that it is on track to get 100 percent of the vote, according to the party's publicity secretary, Jerry Ekandjo.

Namibia expert John Grobler said in an article carried by this week’s Mail & Guardian newspaper that the RDP is the only party that stands any chance of breaking Swapo's political stranglehold over the voter-rich central northern regions, and in particular in the most densely populated region of Ohangwena.

Its staging of rallies, especially in Outapi in the neighboring Omusati region, the political heartland of former president Sam Nujoma, has seen violence break out between RDP and Swapo supporters.

Like the Congress of Democrats (CoD), the RDP is a breakaway faction of Swapo members, formed into a political party in 2007 under former Swapo stalwarts Hidipo Hamutenya and Jesaya Nyamu.

The RDP has borrowed heavily from U. S. President Barack Obama's campaigning methods, with door-to-door campaigning. Grobler says this election promises to be different in some material respects: unlike previous elections, this time votes will be counted at the polling stations, with results to be posted outside the same venue. This method was followed in last year’s elections in Zimbabwe.

This practice in itself is expected to curtail any election rigging, which opposition parties allege happened in 2004.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has backed down from handing the tender to print the ballots to a Swapo-owned company. The ballots will now be supplied by a South African printing firm instead.

At the same time, the ECN has revised its claimed figures of registered voters down from 1.36 million to a more modest 960 000 voters, a difference of 400 000 voters. But even this figure remains questionable: informed sources suggest that the real number of registered voters is closer to 820 000.

Namibia covers 824,295 square km with a population of just over 2 million. Namibia is rich in diamonds, uranium, copper, zinc and lead.

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