The A to Z of Elections 2014 [analysis]

All People’s Party

Former deputy minister and former Congress of Democrats member of parliament Ignatius Shixwameni made it back into the National Assembly (NA) as the only APP MP in 2009, when his party scored 1.35% of the vote. Will Shixwameni and his party be able to hold on to that support, and can they show this year that the APP is more than a Kavango-based party?

Basics

Sixteen political parties vying to fill 96 seats in the National Assembly, nine candidates hoping to become the next President of Namibia, 1 255 fixed polling stations and 2 711 mobile polling stations in 121 constituencies, more than 13 000 elections officials employed by the Electoral Commission of Namibia, and, most importantly, 1 241 194 voters who today have the chance of helping to decide the future of Namibia over the next five years. ‘Born-frees’ – Namibians born after independence on 21 March 1990 – account for 21.3% of the electorate (264 982 voters).

Congress of Democrats

Will the CoD still be represented in parliament after the 2014 elections? After starting off with seven seats in the NA following the 1999 election, the CoD has been on a downward spiral since then. Its representation in the NA was down to five seats after the 2004 election, when its share of the vote was about 7.3%, and plummeted further to one seat (won with only 0.7% of the vote) after the 2009 elections. After 15 years as a CoD MP, party leader Ben Ulenga is not heading the party’s list of NA candidates this year, but will former MP Tsudao Gurirab be able to make it back to parliament?

DTA

Once the official opposition in the NA, with 21 seats (28.6% of the vote) after the 1989 election, the DTA’s support dwindled to 3% of the vote in the 2009 elections, in which the party won only two seats in the NA. With an energetic and youthful leader at the helm in the person of McHenry Venaani, will the DTA see a resurgence at the polls this year?

Electoral Commission of Namibia

The 2009 and 2004 national elections both gave rise to court challenges that did not exactly leave the ECN covered in glory. If the ECN, under its new director, Paul John Isaak, manages to get through the election process without another court challenge it will already be an improvement on the past two Presidential and National Assembly elections. However, will opposition parties’ mistrust of the major new feature of the elections this year, electronic voting machines (EVMs), result in a repeat of the drawn-out legal challenge that left the parties empty-handed after costing them millions of dollars in legal fees after 2009?

Flags

Elections, Namibian style, feature flags – whether oversized or small, mounted on cars, placed at the top of trees, wherever. A sure sign that political silly season has arrived is when neighbours in villages in northern Namibia start to get into heated disputes over the placing of rival parties’ flags at the top of roadside trees in their areas, and this year was no exception.

Geingob

After serving as Namibia’s first Prime Minister from 1990, Hage Geingob suddenly found himself without a job when President Sam Nujoma carried out a shock Cabinet shuffle in late August 2002. Geingob might have been down, but he was not out – he returned to the NA in 2005, to the Cabinet in 2008, and was appointed as Prime Minister again in December 2012. After today, the 73-year-old Geingob is expected to be Namibia’s president-elect. The only question is by what margin he is going to win.

Hamutenya

Once upon a time Hidipo Hamutenya was regarded as a crown prince in Swapo. Now aged 75, HH is the oldest of the nine candidates in the presidential race, and his age appears to be showing. Although he received only 11% of the vote in the 2009 presidential election, Hamutenya was the main challenger of President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who won the election with a landslide 76.4% of the vote. Will Hamutenya be able to retain, let alone increase, his previous level of support this time around, or might a youthful candidate like the DTA’s McHenry Venaani overtake the veteran politician?

Increase

This year will see Namibians voting to fill an increased number of 96 seats in the National Assembly. The expansion of the NA should help smaller parties that score only around 1% of the vote, squeak into parliament more easily than in the past.

Jokers

Who will take over from Joseph Kauandenge as clown in chief of Namibian politics? At least an enlarged NA will give more politicians a chance to make it onto the national stage, from where they can entertain and embarrass the long-suffering electorate with foolish utterances and displays of ignorance and lack of vision and leadership skills. Or will our next NA be an improvement on the previous ones?

Kaizen

A Japanese business philosophy of continuous improvement of working practices, personal efficiency, etc. Can the ECN – in fact, our government as a whole – please adopt this philosophy?

Left

In Namibia, parties proclaiming to be leftist are few and weak. Even Swapo, which sometimes claims to have a leftist agenda, has in recent years completely abandoned it in favour of capitalism and the unfettered enrichment of the elite – or it does not know what leftist means. In this election Swanu and the Workers Revolutionary Party are probably the only representatives of the left. Who knows what the NEFF actually stands for? – but the only one of these with a (slim) hope of making it into parliament is Swanu, whose Usutuaije Maamberua has proven himself to be an asset to the NA over the past five years.

Mercedes-Benzes

Our political leaders have grown to love these German cars (preferably with very dark tinted windows), which the vast majority of Namibia’s population cannot afford to own. Will our new representatives in parliament and the Cabinet be more modest than their predecessors, and rather opt for more affordable wheels? If the people can get from A to B in Toyotas and Volkswagens, why can’t their elected representatives?

Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters

They look a lot like firebrand Julius Malema’s Economic Freedom Fighters in South Africa, but will Namibia’s version of the militant movement in berets and red overalls be able to storm into parliament the way Juju’s crew did? Somehow we doubt it, given the underwhelming scale of the NEFF’s attempts at public rallies and meetings since its launch.

Opposition

Frail and fractured and struggling to make any inroads into the overwhelming support Swapo has enjoyed in Namibia’s elections over the past 20 years, will opposition parties be able to convince past Swapo supporters to switch allegiance or new voters to steer clear of the ruling party or will they be trading votes among themselves again in 2014?

Plots

When Swapo’s top four suspended Job Amupanda after he illegally claimed a plot in Windhoek’s Kleine Kuppe suburb, we knew that urban land will make a cameo appearance in these elections. But how big or how small will be the influence of this issue when voters make up their minds? We’re yet to see.

Queues

It’s part of the election process, so bring along a hat or umbrella for the sun, and try to stay patient and polite. We’ll see if the new EVMs help speed up the process and can get queues moving faster than in the past.

RDP

The Rally for Democracy and Progress received 11.3% of the vote in the 2009 elections, giving the new party eight MPs in the NA. Other opposition parties have seen their support and number of seats fall after entering parliament, but will the RDP be able to buck this trend? If it manages to maintain its past support at the same level, the RDP could see its number of MPs in the enlarged NA increase to 11.

Swapo

The big gorilla in Namibian politics. The ruling party has enjoyed a remarkably consistent level of support at the polls over the past 20 years: It scored 75.2% of the vote in the 2009 elections, giving it 54 seats in the NA, 75.8% (55 seats) in 2004, 76% (55 seats) in 1999, and 72.7% (53 seats) in 1994. Will Swapo’s election juggernaut again roll over underfunded and struggling opposition parties this year?

Tolerance

The oil that keeps the gears of a democracy running smoothly. Live and let live debate issues and policies rather than exchanging personal insults, and be mature and responsible in your political activities. This has not been a g point of Namibians, and especially the ruling party, in the past. A quote to remember: “It is thus tolerance that is the source of peace, and intolerance that is the source of disorder and squabbling.” – Pierre Bayle, French philosopher and writer (1647 – 1706).

UDF

They started off with four seats in the NA in 1990, but are now down to two, after receiving 2.4% of the vote in 2009. Will the UDF be able to expand its support, or will it remain a party depending on predominantly Damara ethnic support?

Voters

We, the people, are the most important part of the elections. We will vote our representatives into power as servants of the people, and we must hold them accountable over the next five years.

Women

This year, women account for 53% of the electorate, and Swapo has led the way in implementing an equal representation of men and women on its parliamentary party list. Expect to see more female MPs than ever before in the NA from 21 March 2015.

X

A pencil-drawn X will no longer mark a voter’s support for the party or candidate of her choice this year. The introduction of EVMs will eliminate spoiled ballots and should make voting as easy as pushing two buttons on a machine – but will voters embrace the new technology, will opposition parties’ misgivings be assuaged, and will the electronic voting system enable the ECN to announce the election results more quickly than in the past?

Generation Y

The young vote is growing in importance. This year, 45.5% of the electorate (564 706 out of 1 241 194 registered voters) are part of Generation Y – those born after 1982. With Generation X – voters born between 1965 and 1981 – accounting for 32.4% of the electorate (402 597 voters), the younger generations hold the key to the outcome of the 2014 elections and polls to come.

Zero

Who are the no-hopers that are going to end up with zero seats in the NA? With 16 parties taking part in the election, there will be plenty of competition at the bottom of the polling ladder. Prime candidates for a ballot station flop this year are Christian Democratic Voice, the National Democratic Party, the Workers Revolutionary Party, the Democratic Party of Namibia, the United People’s Movement, the Republican Party and Monitor Action Group – although the enlargement of the NA might just save some of them from utter failure and political oblivion.

* Compiled by Werner Menges, Johnathan Beukes and Christof Maletsky

Source : The Namibian