Namibia: D-Day Dawns for Political Parties

26 November 2019

The party anthems have waned. The chanting of party slogans has descended into an unfamiliar, deafening silence.

And so has the pandemonium that had been created around this year's presidential and National Assembly elections, as D-Day descends.

Namibians will go to the polls tomorrow to elect leaders who will form part of government for the next five years, including the country's president.

Some 1 358 468 people have registered to cast their votes tomorrow across the country's 14 regions and 121 constituencies.

A total of eight candidates will contest this year's presidential election, while 15 parties will vie for seats in the National Assembly.

This year's presidential race will be one of the most fiercely contested, in part due to the entry into the race of independent candidate Panduleni Itula.

He becomes the first ever independent presidential candidate in the country's history. He is up against the ruling Swapo party's candidate, Hage Geingob, who is seeking another five-year term at the helm of the country.

Geingob entered the race as one of the favourites, basking in the glory of a comprehensive showing in the 2014 presidential election, which he won with more than 87% of the votes - a result that placed him even on top of his own party, which attained 80% of the votes in the National Assembly race.

Also in the race is the leader of the official opposition in the National Assembly, McHenry Venaani, who is contesting in the elections for the second time.

The Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has been instrumental in pushing for transformation, starting with renaming the former Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) in a bid to have a wider appeal.

Former deputy land reform minister Bernadus Swartbooi, who hastily resigned from his position in 2017 after a spat with his boss, minister Utoni Nujoma, is another entrant in the presidential race.

Swartbooi went on to form the Landless Peoples' Movement (LPM) in 2016 as a lobby group. The organisation was officially registered as a political party in March 2019.

Tangeni Iijambo represents Swanu, the country's oldest political party, in the race for the country's highest political position. Other contenders in the presidential race are Rally for Democracy and Progress's Mike Kavekotora and Apius Auchab of United Democratic Front (UDF).

National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo)'s Esther Muinjangue becomes the first female contestant in a presidential election in Namibia. She rose to prominence in her party - equally becoming its first female president after warding off a strong challenge from Vetaruhe Kandorozu, a Nudo regional councillor for Okakarara constituency.

Nudo has consistently clung onto its support bases in the Omaheke and Otjozondjupa regions, where they have stubornly beaten off competition. The party is yet to lose an election in the Okakarara, Aminuis and Otjinene constituencies.

Republican Party president Henk Mudge withdrew from the race about three weeks before polling day. So did Epafras Mukwiilongo (NEFF) and All People's Party's Ignatius Shixwameni and they all pledged allegiance to Itula.

Itula, who has stressed that he remains a Swapo member despite running against his own party's candidate, has aroused interest among many voters and observers.

He largely rode on the wave of euphoria around independent candidates, which started in the by-elections earlier in the year, particularly by Ondangwa Urban independent candidate Angelina Immanuel.

Namibia's presidential elections are held on a first-past-the-post system, where the winning candidate has to gain more than 50% of the vote.

This year's National Assembly election will see new entrant LPM testing the waters on becoming Namibia's new kid on the political block.

The party hopes to get to the electorate through its push for ancestral land claims and radical land reform policies that it promises to implement if voted into power.

Congress of Democrats, which has seen its popularity waning in recent years, will be hoping for a comeback. It hopes to amass the same showing that once made it the country's official opposition after its formation in 1999.

The party garnered slightly more than 10% of the vote, landing it seven seats which made it the second most popular party after the ruling Swapo, which took 55 seats (76,15% of the votes).

The Namibia Patriotic Front (NPF), which had been dormant since its glory days under veteran politician Moses Katjiuongua in the early 1990s, has been revived and is another contender.

This year's run-up to the elections has been one of the most intense since the 1989 elections, aided by the advent of social media which saw fierce contests among various political party members as they campaigned for their organisations.

The parties also held various whirlwind campaigns in different parts of the country, especially in the last few weeks, in a last-ditch effort to woo voters.

The results of the elections are expected to be announced immediately after polling closes at 21h00, while a new government will only be sworn-in in March 2020.

Namibia will know by Thursday who its new president will be.

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