African Union keeps eye on Namibian polls
An organ of the African Union (AU) says it is “keeping an eye” on next month’s Namibian general election, while highlighting questions about recent electoral reforms which allegedly could give Swapo more dominance.
This follows a research paper published earlier this month by a Peace and Security Council (PSC) researcher, Dimpho Motsamai, indicating that those reforms “may instead undermine the credibility of its [Namibia’s] electoral processes”.
The PSC is an organ of the AU responsible for the peace and security of member states.
Motsamai wrote that that the new Electoral Act was initially welcomed by the opposition but it gradually became a point of contention with the government after being delayed for several months.
The researcher highlighted allegations that the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC), which drafted the legislation, allowed political interference by Swapo during the process.
According to Motsamai, this was largely due to the introduction of unexpected constitutional amendments.
“These were passed in August 2014, despite a lack of consultation on the changes and the glaring fact that the proposed Electoral Bill was still pending,” Motsamai wrote.
“Therefore, instead of improving prospects for more efficient administration in the forthcoming elections, Namibia’s electoral reform may instead undermine the credibility of its electoral processes.”
The Electoral Act creates an independent process of appointing Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) commissioners and recommends that the chairperson’s post should be a full-time position.
It also provides for the establishment of electoral courts and tribunals and indicates when challenges to the electoral process can be raised.
An occurrence book will be placed at very ECN point for anyone to enter a complaint they may have, which will be used as evidence in any challenge to election results.
Sworn statements will be used for the registration of voters who do not have the relevant Namibian identification documents, while mobile voting stations will still be used.
The Act also provides for the registration and de-registration of political parties and organisations.
It stipulates that a party must at least have 3 500 signatures, and be represented in at least seven regions, before it can be registered by the ECN.
Under the law the ECN will be empowered to supervise and hold referendums.
In its latest edition of PSC Report, the organ said it has been reviewing elections in member states on a quarterly basis as a means for initiating preventive action in countries facing a risk of violence or political crisis around elections.
Referring specifically to Namibia, the report took note of the concerns that the new electoral law could further the dominance of the ruling party and strengthen the powers of the president.
“A redrafting of the electoral law by the country’s Law Reform and Development Commission has been ongoing since 2011, but the opposition decries Swapo’s influence in both the Commission and the Electoral Commission of Namibia,” it read.
Over a million voters have registered to cast their ballots on November 28 to elect a new president and National Assembly.
Elvis Muraranganda: Namibia Sun