Opposition Cynical Over EVMs

Opposition parties are sceptical over the new electronic voting system to be used in the presidential and parliamentary elections in November.

Some of the opposition say the electronic voting machines (EVMs) should not be used because they were not previously tested in Namibia and the electorate have not been educated on them, while others propose the ballot and electronic systems be used together.

E-voting is a term encompassing several different types of voting, embracing the electronic means of casting a vote, storing the voting record in some database and electronically counting the votes.

In interviews on Monday,some parties decried the Electoral Commission of Namibia’s plans to introduce the new system, while others claim the new system can be the panacea for smooth elections if some of the nitty-gritties are addressed.

“People have not been educated and therefore may not be in a position to use the new voting system. If ECN forces through the electronic voting system then the two systems must be used concurrently,” said Swanu president Usutuaije Maamberua.

He wants the electronic and ballot tendering systems to be used simultaneously to enable his party to detect any discrepancies that may arise during polling.

Maamberua was also dismayed over the fact that certain disputatious contents of the electoral law pointed out by Chief Justice Peter Shivute when delivering judgment in the 2009 election challenge case were yet to be amended.

The official opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) secretary general Mike Kavekotora said the RDP would conduct an in-depth independent investigation on how the electronic voting system operates and the party would only agree to its use once the ECN proved the machines cannot be tampered with.

“The ECN must give us more information on these machines and why they were tailor-made for Namibia. Many of the aanced countries are not using this system and some of those that were have done away with it – these are all things we will be looking at during our investigations,” said Kavekotora.

He also feared that the lack of voter education would be a challenge because most voters had not received any form of training on how to use the voting machines. “I do not think the time that is left is adequate to educate the voters,” he said.

DTA president McHenry Venaani was also worried, claiming the machines had not been tested since they were procured, adding that the ECN was not forthcoming with information on how the entire elections would be conducted.

“Countries that are using this system such as India introduced it systematically when they started using it … everywhere else it took years to change from one system to the other. As for us, we did not even test these machines, not even in a by-election to see how they function,” said Venaani.

He is also concerned about voter education. “I am concerned because we are already in May, the time left to educate people is becoming shorter,” he said.

Although Nudo is in support of electronic voting, it says the ECN must have sufficient back-up voting machines in case any technical problems are encountered.

“The electronic system must be implemented because we cannot go back to the ballot papers that we have been complaining about so much,” said its deputy secretary general Vetaruhe Kandorozu.

Kandorozu proposed that the ECN avails one EVM for each region to each registered party so that political parties can complement the ECN’s voter education programme.

The director of elections of the ECN Professor Paul Isaak on Monday said the ECN has set a timeline to introduce EVMs to all political parties.

“Within the next two weeks we will go to various constituencies and regions to engage in voter education,” Isaak told New Era.

Isaak said the ECN would do everything in its power to ensure the message reaches all eligible voters, adding that the new electoral law reform would also change how voter education takes place.

Some of the changes to the Electoral Act would be that voters will not be required to produce water and electricity bills in local authority elections as was the case in the past, while it would also change the period of voting to a single day.

Isaak said the ECN wants to make sure eligible voters familiarize themselves with the EVMs to be confident and accept the machines when the polls start.

The ECN procured 3 400 electronic voting machines from India in 2009 at a cost of N$10 million.

Source : New Era