ECN Has Huge Task Handling Three Plotters’ Poisoned Chalice [opinion]

PRAY tell us, how long might it be before the recent constitutional changes emerge as a poisoned chalice that the triumvirate of Prime Minister Hage Geingob, law reform chief Sacky Shanghala and presidential affairs minister Albert Kawana ram down our throats?

We doubt whether even ardent opponents would have imagined that the amendments, rushed through parliament last month, could become a source of concern as soon as this year or whenever the upcoming elections take place.

And it might happen that the very people at the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), for whom the changes were most needed, will find themselves in a mess not of their making. We wonder whether the three conspirators of Geingob, Shanghala and Kawana (who schemed and conducted a dirty campaign targeting anyone who raised genuine concerns about the rushed amendments) will be laughing as smugly as when their push to have the changes succeeded.

How ironical, indeed, that it is the same Geingob who is now raising doubts about the credibility of the electronic voting machines – by extension the credibility of the upcoming elections – if there is no paper trail.

The one-man drafter of the upcoming and revamped electoral law, Shanghala, had insisted that the new legislation requires a paper trail. This is supposed to serve as an insurance or back-up if the electronic voting machines (EVMs) fail or are tampered with in order to rig elections.

In theory, that is a good idea. A paper trail would provide some sense of confidence and credibility, especially for people who are still getting used to leave their mark where a computer screen would now replace a written piece of paper.

Not so simple in practice. The drawback, as ECN chair Notemba Tjipueja tried to explain to Geingob this week, is that the machines that Namibia acquired do not have the feature to print paper. In fact, they seem the best on the market. Thus, the upcoming elections, which would be conducted with EVMs, might fall short of legal requirements if the law that is expected to be promulgated in the next few weeks still contains that provision.

The alternative is for the ECN to find ways to have paper proof showing the number of votes a party receives.

Either way, the constitutional amendments and their accompanying laws are already showing signs that the trio of schemers have handed the country a poisoned chalice.

These conspirators vilified anyone who urged them to separate the envisaged electoral law from their pet projects of increasing the numbers of lawmakers and shoring up presidential powers. Focus on the electoral bill might have just given everyone adequate space to help strengthen the planned law on elections and to do away with hindrances.

Pity the ECN, who might again face court cases simply because they were given a near impossible task, such as the requirement for the non-existent “paper trail” of electronic machines.

The requirement could very well delay the voting process and the tallying of votes.

Already under pressure to undertake voter education in using the new tools, we wish ECN chair Tjipueja and the chief executive of elections agency, Paul Isaak, the best of luck in making sure that the poisoned chalice handed to them and the country by these conspirators does not cause convulsions.

Source : The Namibian