Namibia: Itula Determined to Remove EVMs

e-Voting Machines used in Namibian elections.

Independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula says he will go a step further to ensure that the disputed electronic voting machines are not used in the upcoming presidential and National Assembly elections.

He said recent reports of missing voting machines that have caused a widespread public outcry have proven that EVMs cannot be trusted, and should not be used in the national elections next month.

If the EVMs are to be used in the elections, the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) should make sure they are accompanied by a verifiable voter audit paper trail to enhance the credibility of the election and to dispel doubts of manipulation, he added.

In the absence of such a paper trail, Itula said the ECN should rather return to the old model of using ballot papers.

He made these remarks on Saturday in Windhoek during the launch of his election manifesto for the upcoming elections.

Itula is one of 11 politicians vying for Namibia's presidential position. He is the first in Namibian history to contest for the country's top job as an independent candidate.

At the event, he said he had written to the ECN to demand the removal of the EVMs.

He said the use of the EVMs could not be trusted because the machines can be manipulated to "divert the votes to the person who is not the choice of the people".

Itula, however, said if the ECN is determined to use the EVMs, the commission must also enforce section 97 (3) of the Electoral Act, which states that "the use of voting machines (EVM) is subject to the simultaneous utilisation of a verifiable paper trail for every vote cast by a voter, and any vote cast is verified by a count of the paper trail".

He added that the ECN must equally enforce subsection 4 of section 97 of the Electoral Act, which states that "in the event that the results of the voting machines and the results of the paper trail do not accord, the paper trail results are accepted as the election outcome for the polling station or voting thread concerned".

Failure to enforce the above provisions in the Electoral Act, would compel him to drag the ECN to court to have the EVMs removed from the elections, he warned.

"When we say no to the EVMs at the launch of this manifesto, we have just expressed our right in Article 1 subsection 2 of the Namibian Constitution, which states that "all power shall be vested in the people of Namibia who shall exercise their sovereignty through democratic institutions of the state".

"We cannot allow the ECN to coerce us into using a method of election that [we] do not prefer to use. And I will ask the nation at large to reject the EVMs. It is either justice, or we will never allow injustice to triumph in our democracy because if we do that, we will betray the future of our children," he continued.

Itula is not the only one to express discontent with the use of the EVMs.

Opposition parties such as the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) and the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), amongst others, have been calling for the reintroduction of the ballot paper system.

PDM leader McHenry Venaani last week said he will ask the SADC chairperson to get involved in order to get the EVMs removed from the elections.

RDP leader Mike Kavekotora earlier this month also called on the ECN to introduce the voter verifiable audit paper trails to the electronic machines, as required by the electoral act.

Despite this call from the public and various opposition parties, ECN electoral officer Theo Mujoro last week said that the ECN will use EVMs in the upcoming elections, adding that the EVMs are a robust technology.

"They eliminate mistakes that could creep into the process because of human fatigue and human errors. We will also be deploying voter verification devices at our polling stations," he said.

Mujoro added that the introduction of the EVMs was not done as an exercise in pleasantries, but rather involved close to 10 years of extensive consultations with all registered political parties.

He said the ECN would also allow political parties to have representatives at all results collation centres to satisfy themselves with the results from the EVMs.

Mujoro, however, said the EVMs will not be accompanied by the verifiable paper trail because "the commission is not in a position to produce the paper trails".

He added that if the results of the elections at a particular polling station are disputed for any reason, "any competent court can order the commission to produce a paper trail".

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