Namibia: Observers Give Elections the Thumbs Up

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

A corss section of election observers monitoring the pre-and post-election environment in Namibia have called for the Electoral Commission of Namibia to create a broad-based engagement with civil society in the future to give more credence to the electoral process.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM), African Union Election Observer Mission (AUEOM), Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC countries (ECF-SADC), as well as the Commonwealth Election Observer Mission also called for the possibility of amending the electoral law to allocate enough resources to the state broadcaster, NBC, to enable them to cover all parties equally in line with the SADC election handbook guidelines.

The observers made their preliminary statements on Friday following Namibia's voting process on 27 November.

The missions recommended that the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) consider introducing the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail component to the EVMS with the aim of improving transparency and building trust in the voting process.

An interim statement by Musa Mwenye, former attorney general of Zambia and chair of the Commonwealth Observer Group, encouraged the ECN, political parties, civil society and other electoral stakeholders to engage in post-election, inclusive dialogue on how to resolve the issue of the lack of a verifiable paper trail ahead of future elections.

"The ECN's ongoing and consistent engagement with political parties is an incredibly critical part of building and maintaining confidence in the electoral process. The ECN should also lead efforts towards investing more in voter education and encouraging the public to become better acquainted with the EVMs, enhancing communication with stakeholders and building overall confidence in the use of the EVMs.

"ECN should enhance their collaboration with civil society groups and other stakeholders so as to carry out continuous civic education," he said.

Stating that they observed that the elections met international, regional and national standards, the AUEOM said the ECN should familiarise voters with the EVMs through increased voter education that allows for regular interface with the voting machines.

The AU also observed that the elections were conducted in a peaceful manner.

Heading the mission, former Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma commended Namibians for maintaining their composure and conducting peaceful elections.

He said: "The AUEOM congratulates the government and people of Namibia for the conduct of a peaceful general elections. Based on its observations and the findings, the AUEOM concludes that the 27 November 2019 general elections were conducted in compliance with the national laws of the country and in accordance with international standards. The elections afforded Namibians the opportunity to freely express their will.

"The AUEOM commends the Namibian government for ratifying the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as recommended by the AUEOM following the 2014 general elections."

Meanwhile, SEOM stated that if there are any electoral disputes, they should be channelled through legal procedures and processes.

The SEOM announced that Namibia's election process was safe, with no major security risks observed. The mission added that the political and security environment in the pre-election and election period was calm and peaceful, with no visible political and security risk that could adversely affect the conduct of the election.

Head of mission Zimbabwe defence minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said the voter registration process was completed and verified without disturbances.

She added that the campaigning process was peaceful, apart from an incident at Ondangwa a week ago when a group supporting one presidential candidate threatened to block traffic and were dispersed by the police with tear gas.

"The mission observed that peace and security prevailed. The environment at polling stations was peaceful, police were present at polling stations and were professional in their conduct," said the head of mission.

Speaking on the presence of the military forces, she said there was no evidence that voters were intimidated.

"The mission observed that the pre-election and voting phases of the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections were generally peaceful, well organised and conducted in a professional manner which enabled voters to express their democratic right.

"The mission also observed that those who were seeking office were generally able to campaign freely," Muchinguri-Kashiri said.

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