23 January 2019

Namibia: ECN Done Hunting for Commissioners

The Electoral Commission of Namibia concluded interviewing 13 potential candidates for the two vacant electoral commissioners' posts in Windhoek on Monday.

Those interviewed in the presence of a small public audience were Calista Schwartz, Hendrik Tjibeba, Wilma Enssle, Carola Engelbrecht, Vitura Kavari, Gerson Tjihenuna, Penias Topnaar, Lazarus Shatipamba, Chippa Tjirera, Michael Akuupa, Evaristus Evaristus, Moses Ikanga and Barney Karuuombe [a current commissioner whose term will end in March].

The Electoral Act, Act 5 of 2014, mandates that the ECN selects not less than 10 but not more than 20 applicants to be interviewed by a selection committee.

The selection committee comprised chairperson Batseba Katjiuongua and members Stacey Bock, Frans Gertze, Zaa Nashandi and Neliswa Tjahikika. National Council secretary Lydia Kandetu was also present.

Katjiuongua told The Namibian yesterday that the ECN had completed the first step of a lengthy process.

She said the next step would be to recommend five names to president Hage Geingob, after which he would choose two for parliament to approve.

The selection committee's chairperson added that the process is expected to be completed by March.

Amongst other things, interview questions tried to test whether applicants understood the role of the ECN; how they understood good moral standing; whether they had been involved in an ethical dilemma, and how they would confront contested elections.

The candidates were also challenged with the task of explaining what changes they would bring to the electoral process.

One of the three female candidates, Enssle, said she had experience with the ECN between 1992 and 2005, through the Office of the Prime Minister.

She added that she also has experience in budgeting and law enforcement.

Enssle mentioned that she values transparency, and that would be the change she would bring if selected to be a commissioner.

She suggested that transparency is the cornerstone of credible elections, whereupon accountability follows.

However, she pointed out that the law [Electoral Act] restricts certain activities.

Another candidate, Tjihenuna, made it clear that he is no longer part of the Air Namibia board.

Carola Engelbrecht said she likes to look at Namibia as a whole.

Engelbrecht who said she is not partisan, insisted that relationships must be created between civil society and the electoral commission.

She said the selection process should be more inclusive, and that the ECN should not just publish information about the interviewing of electoral commissioners in the Government Gazette.

Engelbrecht also questioned the impact of ECN roadshows with regards to voter education, adding that there should be better access to information.

Kavari, who said he was "willing to serve", also mentioned having been part of the 1992 electoral team.

He said he wouldn't be a newcomer to the scene as he was part of a team which covered the study of elections in 2010, and also questioned why only five posts are available for such a mammoth task.

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