Delay in Electoral Law Reform evokes suspicion: Venaani

28 Oct 2013 17:40pm
WINDHOEK, 28 OCT (NAMPA) - The delay in the Electoral Law Reform evokes suspicion, and the new voters’ register is in danger of lacking integrity all over again, the DTA of Namibia president McHenry Venaani said on Monday.
Venaani laid the complaints during a media briefing following parliamentarians’ rejection earlier this month of a proposed debate on the importance and urgency of a thorough overhaul of the electoral legislation.
The motion was initiated by Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) Member of Parliament (MP) Anton von Wietersheim, but was rejected before he could motivate it.
In light of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN)’s announcement that it will conduct the next general registration of voters early next year, Venaani said law makers in the National Assembly (NA), of which 75 per cent are from the Swapo arty, are blocking the debate on the new Electoral Law deliberately.
“This is an untenable situation which threatens to tarnish the credibility of the 2014 elections already at this point,” he said.
According to him, the urgent need to revise the said legislation and everything connected to producing the new law seems to have been stopped dead in its tracks even when all this hype was created by the pronouncements of judges in both the High Court and the Supreme Court about Namibia´s chaotic electoral legislation.
Next year’s elections will be observed across the globe, the DTA leader pointed out, adding that the legal framework on elections is always part of observer reports in any given country.
“What are the local and international observers including the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU) supposed to report regarding the legal framework governing elections in Namibia,” he questioned.
Parliament, Venaani said, plans to go on recess in about one month to re-open in February 2014, and by then the ECN is envisaged to be halfway through its voter registration process.
“How on earth does Cabinet expect the ECN to register voters to compile a brand new voters’ register while the new law is still up in the air,” the DTA leader wanted to know.
He advised that parliament should rather extend its stay and work over time to bring the Electoral Reform Bill to parliament, so that all political parties represented extensively debate the Bill.
Ten registered political parties, including the DTA, submitted their comprehensive combined proposals for improved electoral legislation to the chairperson of the Law Reform and Development Commission (LRDC) Sacky Shangala.
“He made all stakeholders believe that their input would be considered and that the draft legislation would be shared with them. Yet, we are sidelined,” he bemoaned.
Meanwhile, Venaani has called on Cabinet through the relevant line minister to come clean without delay on the many different concerns boiling among the various stakeholders and prospective participants in next year’s elections.
“The relevant Cabinet minister should also publicly announce this week what on earth is going on. The lame story that they are working on the legislation is not good enough anymore,” the DTA president charged.
Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Executive Director Graham Hopwood in an email last week also questioned why the motion was voted down, saying it denies an opportunity for debate on the issue.
He also wanted to know how far the LRDC was with the electoral reform process, and whether the country is going to get a credible reform of its electoral law anytime soon.