Namibia: Reduced Victory - Swapo, Geingob Drop Votes

Hage Geingob, President of the Republic of Namibia, addresses the general debate of the General Assembly’s seventy-second session.

President Hage Geingob was re-elected for a second term by a sharply reduced majority in a hotly contested general election, marred by technical failures and a slow vote collating and verification process.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) proclaimed the elections free and fair, despite numerous complaints and allegations of manipulation by opposition parties and candidates.

The electoral management body did little to dispel these allegations.

Namibia's electorate, which endured standing in long queues and going through a slow voting process at polling stations on Wednesday, was frustrated at having to wait another three days for the results.

Election results were finally announced on Saturday night by ECN's chairperson, Notemba Tjipueja, who declared Geingob duly elected after receiving 464 703 of the total 826 198 votes in the presidential election.

This means the president's support has dropped with about 30%, from the overwhelming 87% he got in 2014 to 56,3%.

The incumbent endured fierce competition from independent candidate Panduleni Itula, who came second with 242 657 (29,4%) of the votes.

Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani came third with 43 959 (5,3%) of the total votes, followed by Landless People's Movement (LPM) leader Bernadus Swartbooi with 22 542 (2,7%).

With results from four constituencies still to be declared, Geingob went on social media to thank Namibians for returning him to office, promising to bring tangible improvements to their lives.

In a short statement delivered after his re-election, Geingob said the contest was tough, but "I campaigned like hell, otherwise I would not be standing here".

With this narrow victory, he said the responsibility placed on his shoulders becomes heavier, but he will have to continue with the mandate he was given by Namibians for the next five years.

Geingob then praised the manner in which the election was conducted, and the fierce contest from the opposition and the independent candidate.

"There is always a loser and a winner [... ] so I'm glad that out of this competition, which was tough, I emerged as a victor. It is not a joke. It is a heavy responsibility on my shoulders, but I was there already, so I will just continue," he said.

He added that he was satisfied with the support he got from the electorate, and would never complain that "I was cheated".

"Last time I got 87%, but now I am getting 56%. That's what I got apparently, but you accept it. There were multiple candidates [... ] so it is spread throughout, that's why I'm down. Presidents govern even with 51%. I have a full mandate,by the way," Geingob said.

TWO-THIRDS BROKEN

The ruling Swapo Party's share of the National Assembly vote was also reduced during this year's elections, from 77 seats or 80% the party won in 2014, to 63 or 65,5% of the total votes cast last week.

This means the ruling party has lost its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly, which it exploited to influence decisions. This includes the constitutional changes the party pushed through since 2014, much to the chagrin of the opposition parties. The party needed 64 seats to have a two-thirds majority.

The ruling party has enjoyed this dominance in the National Assembly since 1994, and reached a high point of winning 77 out of 96 seats in the 2014 election.

A total of 820 227 votes were cast in this year's National Assembly election, according to ECN results announced on Saturday evening.

Altogether, opposition parties have 33 seats in the National Assembly, which is equivalent to one-third of the total 96 seats with voting rights.

The PDM is the biggest winner in this election, getting 136 576 votes, or 16,6% of the total number of votes cast.

The party now has 16 seats in the National Assembly, up from the five seats they won in the 2014 elections.

A total of 8 544 votes was set as the quota needed to qualify for a seat in the National Assembly.

Eleven out of the 15 political parties which contested the National Assembly elections secured seats in parliament.

PDM leader McHenry Venaani in an interview with The Namibian welcomed the new development.

"It will sanitise the debate in the house... We will start listening to each other, because we are now sitting with a government that does not listen to anyone," he stated.

NEW ENTRANTS

The newly formed LPM walked straight into parliament with four seats, beating some older and established parties such as Swanu of Namibia, the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo), the Congress of Democrats (CoD) and the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), amongst others.

Other political parties that gained seats in the National Assembly for the first time are the Christian Democratic Voice and the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), which won one and two seats, respectively.

The All People's Party and the Republican Party, which campaigned alongside independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula, won two seats each.

The United Democratic Front (UDF) and Nudo maintained their two seats each, while the RDP lost two of the three seats they had in the last parliament, and Swanu scraped back into the NA with one seat.

The four parties which did not get any seats in parliament are the former official opposition the Congress of Democrats, the Workers Revolutionary Party, the National Patriotic Front, and the National Democratic Party.

OPPOSITION PROTEST

Saturday's announcement of election results was done with only Geingob and one other presidential candidate, Utjiua Muinjangue, present.

PDM leader Venaani said he boycotted the announcement because Geingob, who won the race, had not shown political maturity and goodwill.

The opposition leader did not attend the official announcement because he also charged that there were a lot of anomalies during the elections.

The delays in the announcement of the results created room for doubt among the electorate, which also affects the credibility of the entire elections process, he observed.

Venaani said his party will, despite gaining 16 seats in the National Assembly, not accept the outcome of the elections, given the number of anomalies recorded.

They will investigate and collect all evidence to see, based on the veracity of those anomalies, whether these could "warrant us to seek legal recourse to the Electoral Court or the Supreme Court to make sure that a credible and fair election is delivered to this country".

Venaani added that the reports of some electronic voting machines (EVMs) allegedly found in the Ohangwena region also brings the credibility of the elections into question. There were allegations that some people were found with EVMs in that region, but these are yet to be confirmed by the ECN.

He also accused the ECN and Swapo of inflating the votes in favour of the ruling party.

"If we look at the score-sheets of certain regions, we don't even believe in those results, where we were filling up stadiums, and were just being told 'no, you got a 100 here and a 200 there'. So, the ECN has been running a system that is not credible at this point in time," he stated.

RDP leader Mike Kavekotora was also not happy with the outcome. He said at a press briefing on Saturday that there was significant evidence that the results were manipulated.

* See more election stories on pages 6 and 7.

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