6 December 2012

Namibia: Opposition Parties Mull Congresses

Windhoek — Most opposition political parties have slated their elective congresses for next year, following in the footsteps of the ruling Swapo Party that held its elective congress last week.

The ruling party, in line with its constitution holds a congress every five years. The congress is the highest decision-making body of the party where it elects members of the Central Committee and where it reviews policies and deals with other crucial matters.

Analysts hailed the Swapo Party congress as an admirable example of internal democracy. Some analysts have even suggested that the opposition parties have a great deal to learn from the ruling party and urged them to also hold free and transparent elections for positions in their party.

The Swapo Party congress was preceded by intense primary campaigns by the contestants across Namibia. The most contested position was arguably the vice-presidency, which is the key to State House in 2015 when President Hifikepunye Pohamba will hand over power after completing his second constitutional term in office.

All the contestants and their supporters have promised to accept the results of the congress and pledged their support for the newly elected leaders. Political pundits have lauded the outcome as a sign of the maturity of the ruling party, saying ultimately the winner was the party itself and not as much the individual candidates who emerged victorious.

"Contestation for leadership positions is always welcome. The opposition parties should also organise competitive processes for selecting party leaders," said Graham Hopwood, the director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), in an interview with New Era prior to the Swapo Party congress.

Similar sentiments were echoed by Dr Andrew Niikondo, the vice-rector for Academic Affairs and Research at the Polytechnic of Namibia and Phanuel Kaapama, a political analyst and lecturer at the University of Namibia.

The National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) has indicated that it will hold an elective congress early next year. Its president, Chief Kuaima Riruako, however could not shed more light on which positions would be contested and by whom, pending the party's Central Committee meeting slated for the end of this year where members will indicate availability for office.

"I will stand. I am not yet tired. I campaign for myself," he said in a telephonic interview. Asked, when was the last time the party held an elective congress, he could not positively tell, saying that "the congress has been postponed and postponed, but we have been holding semi-congresses in between."

Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) secretary general, McHenry Venaani, said the DTA will also hold a congress at the end of September next year, where all the top four positions and members of the Central Committee will be elected.

Venaani said the DTA last held a congress in October 2008. He said nominations would come from the floor and from the regions. Venaani was cagey on whether he would contest for his current position or aspire for the much sought-after position of president. "I know that is your main question, but ask me next year, then I will be able to answer it," he said.

The Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) has scheduled only its second congress since the founding of the party for late next year. Its secretary for information and publicity, Nghiningilwandubo Kashume said the party held its maiden congress during the period September 5-7 2008, where the current leadership was elected.

He said the party needs to hold a number of Central Committee meetings to deliberate on issues before the congress, adding that only one Central Committee meeting has been convened so far.

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