The African Union Election Observer Mission (AUEOM) and the Southern African Development Community Election Observer Mission (SADCEOM) have given a thumbs up to the electoral system in Namibia although acknowledging that about 15% of the polling stations they visited during the polling period had technical problems.
The AU concurs that the electoral process in Namibia was conducted in line with the guidelines of the AU charter on elections and also become a significant ground breaker due to the use of the Electoral Voting Machines. The EVMs have never been used in any other election on the continent except in Namibia.
The AUEOM also acknowledged that the elections in the country were conducted in a peaceful environment without any signs of intimidation or violence. They also noted that the elections were conducted in line with the laws of the country and in line with international obligations allowing Namibians to express their will freely.
In their assessment statement released yesterday the African Union said, ‘’The AUEOM notes with satisfaction that 61% of the staff and 74% of party agents of polling stations visited were women. It was noted that polling personnel conducted duties in a professional manner and with commitment even late into the night. It was however noted in 15% of the stations visited that staff had challenges with the equipment and they required technical support which was not immediately available,’’ the statement read in part.
The AU also acknowledged that the state broadcaster Namibian Broadcasting Corporation did a sterling job in giving access to the public media to all political parties that participated in the elections.
The AUEOM however made recommendations that need to be captured for future elections in Namibia in a bid to improve the process of voting. Some of the recommendations made include amending the electoral law to regulate sources of party funding to provide mandatory ceilings on campaign expenditure to ensure fair access to resources among political parties.
The AUEOM also recommended that the country harmonise the provisions on gender and equality for regional and local elections with the provisions of the Electoral Act to ensure gender equality in national election.
As part of their additional recommendations the AUEOM also added that, ‘’Namibia should entrench the principle of allocating free airtime in the public broadcaster for political party campaign on an equal basis in the Electoral Act.’’
The AUEOM also urged that Namibia should ensure that any legislation changes are instituted in ample time to allow the Electoral Commission of Namibia enough time to prepare for the elections. They also argued that there is need for regularisation of the role of the media in order to improve the standards of reporting.
The AUEOM also encourages ECN to consider simplifying station procedures namely the voter identify verification process and recording of voter’s presence to ensure that that all procedures can be completed within the stipulated voting hours. Consider limiting the number of voters per polling station.
According to the AUEOM, ECN needs to come up with efficient management of mobile polling stations to improve efficiency and speedy conclusions.
In the same vain announcing the preliminary stance of the Southern African Development Community South African International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana –Mashabane who led the SOEM said the elections were handled in a professional manner in line with the SADC protocol on free and fair elections.
‘’The pre-election phase was generally peaceful. There were a few isolated incidents of intimidation and violence however these were dealt with adequately by the law enforcement agents. The election environment in Namibia creates a conducive undertaking of these important elections. Campaigns were generally held peacefully demonstrating a reasonable level of political tolerance,’’ part of the SEOM statement read.
Namibia took the decision to hold electronic polling ahead all the other African countries in a bid to improve efficiency of the polling environment in the country and also cut down on unnecessary delays to election results announcement.
Both SADC and the AU were the leading election observers in the country during the weekend poll.
The African Union Election Observer Mission was made up of representatives from countries such as Botswana, Burundi, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, Sudan, South Sudan, Malawi, Lesotho, Ghana and Kenya.
*A longer version of this article will appear in tomorrow’s edition of The Villager