15 April 2019

Namibia: Find Ways to Make People Eager to Vote - Amupadhi

The editor of The Namibian, Tangeni Amupadhi, on Friday urged stakeholders and the Electoral Commission of Namibia to find ways of getting people interested in elections.

Amupadhi said this at an Action Namibia event held on 'Access to Information and Elections' in Windhoek on Friday.

The event, held in partnership with the Namibia Media Trust, was moderated by Graham Hopwood of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

Media ombudsman John Nakuta, the electoral commission's Jesse Munashimwe, activist Carola Engelbrecht and Amupadhi were panellists.

Amupadhi said he found it surprising that even the more informed people would ask who to vote for.

He added that the need for competition between political parties was of utmost importance, and people should not shy away from casting their votes just because they think their vote would be wasted.

"This boils down to voter education and to news media to make sure that these matters are revealed to our citizens.

"We should find a way to make voters much more interested in voting. We wake up, and people go vote without really thinking about it," said Amupadhi.

Gwen Lister, the chairperson of the Namibia Media Trust, said in her welcoming remarks that access to information allows for transparency and a culture of openness.

Nakuta spoke about the proactive disclosure of information regarding what the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN)'s role is towards educating the public on elections before elections.

In his paper titled "Access to Information and Elections", Nakuta scrutinised the ECN's role when it comes to voter education, and whether they were doing enough to inform citizens to exercise their right to vote.

He concluded that the electoral commission did nothing more than what was required in the law when it came to educating the public.

According to Nakuta, access to information empowers and informs the electorate about political processes, such as the right to elect freely, and to hold public officials accountable for their acts or omissions in the execution of their duties.

Hopwood said every voter needs to have access to information. He also spoke about the importance of post-election analyses to improve elections, instead of waiting for the year when the next election would take place to look at what needs to be improved.

Engelbrecht narrated how access to information was tough in the early 1990s when things such as a manual for training election officers were treated as top secret, and she could only access it on an off-the-record basis.

"The only thing that should be secret is a person's vote," she said, adding that the electoral commission should release results at polling stations, instead of waiting to do so at the head office in Windhoek.

Munashimwe said they are very committed to voter education, and the access to information for all citizens. However, although they may be doing the "bare minimum", it is still within the confines of the law.

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