4 July 2012

Namibia: Changes to Restore Confidence in ECN

RADICAL changes will be made to Namibia's electoral process to eliminate the public's distrust and scepticism about the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN). At the same time the review and reform of the electoral process will require that several Constitutional amendments be made.

Four pieces of legislation are earmarked, of which the drafts will be ready towards the end of this year, to ensure a better relationship between the ECN and others such as political parties.

The chairman of the Law Reform and Development Commission, (LRDC), Sacky Shanghala, met with the interested parties yesterday to discuss the revision and reform of the Electoral Act, consultations on which started in August last year.

The meeting, attended by representatives of the political parties, non-governmental organisations, the ECN, Police and Namibia Defence Force, scrutinised a document prepared by the former Director of Elections and Deputy Minister of Regional and Local Government, Gerhard Tötemeyer.

He said the ECN should be governed by a separate piece of legislation from the Electoral Act and that provision should be made for it in the Constitution.

A new Act should also be drafted to cover the registration of political parties and the public funding of parties.

The existing Electoral Act will then be reformed into the Electoral and Referenda Act.

Another need exists for an Act to govern the Delimitation Commission, which the meeting felt should operate on a permanent basis but not as part of the ECN.

It was agreed that there is no need for a judge to act as chairperson of this Commission, as long as it is a suitable person with some legal background.

Another proposal was for the establishment of an Electoral Tribunal.

"The legal drafters are doing their desk research currently but we want the concept legislation be completed by the first week of October, after which we will again consult with relevant stakeholders for the remaining of that month. By the end of this year we have to complete everything and then leave it to the parliamentarians to continue with the process," said Shanghala.

The possibility also exists that the ward system might be reintroduced in local authorities to bring local government closer to the residents.

According to Tötemeyer Namibia's 22 years of independence and a multitude of elections have given a clear indication of issues to be improved in the electoral process.

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