Tug of war between political candidates and Namibia’s electoral commission

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A faction of political candidates who are eyeing for various seats in Namibia’s upcoming elections has vehemently opposed a move by the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) to compel them to sign the elections’ code of conduct.

The Southwest African country is set to go to the ballot to elect its president and members of the National Assembly on November 27, 2019, and the code of conduct is meant to eradicate intimidation, harassment and bullying during the campaigns and polls. The commission on Tuesday, October 29, held the signing event in the country’s capital Windhoek but only the two political parties, South West Africa People’s Organization (SWAPO) and National Democratic Party (NPD) put their signatures.

Others parties and Panduleni Itula, Independent presidential hopeful objected the process, claiming they were not consulted. They walked out of the event and questioned how the ECN was conducting the programme.

 “You cannot coerce us into something that is going to deny the citizens of this country the freedom to participate in political activities. You are bound by Article 18 and Article 5 of the Namibian Constitution to respect our rights under chapter 3 of the Constitution. You did not consult us about the agenda of this meeting, and you are forcing it on us,” accused Itula.

To make the matter worse, attempts by the opposition parties to seek clarification from the election body were said to have been thwarted after the parties claimed they were hindered from asking questions because, according to the electoral body, the code of the conduct was not new. The botched event gave birth to other issues about electronic voting machines and political parties’ representation at results collation centres.

Some have castigated the ECN for imposing the use of electronic voting machines on Namibians despite the controversy surrounding the systems. They challenged the agency to abide by the country’s Electoral Act no 5 of 2014 which allow the public to choose how the elections should be carried out and the process to be used. The disgruntled candidates also took a swipe at the commission for backtracking on its promise to allow all political parties to be represented in results collation centres throughout the process.

“This is the conversation that we had, but only one political party is under oath stating that they are part and parcel of that process. Swapo is that party, to the exclusion of everyone else. It has not been a month; you have not given that to us,” said a member of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) party.

In rejoinder, ENC through its chairperson Notemba Tjipueja downplayed the claims, saying the leaders only want people’s attention.

This year’s election has attracted 10 presidential hopefuls and 16 political parties with the Prime Minister Hage Geingob being the ruling party, SWAPO’s candidate.

By Samuel Ouma