Windhoek — With the recent Presidential and National Assembly elections, African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) noted with concern the low presence of Namibian citizen observers during the actual voting process.
AUEOM comprised 40 observers from the Pan-African Parliament (PAP), African ambassadors accredited to the African Union (AU), Election Management Bodies
(EMBs), independent electoral and governance experts, and Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) were drawn from 23 AU member states.
As part of the AUEOM findings on recent elections, the head of the mission to Namibia Ernest Bai Koroma, who is also the former president of the Republic of Sierra Leone said concerns about their capacity to deploy, due to lack of funds, were previously shared during the stakeholder consultations.
"Besides the AUEOM, other international observers were present in the polling stations visited. They were mainly from SADC and SADC-ECF observer groups. The presence of citizen observers was reported in a few of the polling stations visited," Koroma observed.
However, he emphasised that participation of citizen observers is crucial to the reinforcement of the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process and should therefore be encouraged and supported.
Overall, the AUEOM visited 107 polling stations, whereby they observed the opening, voting, closing and counting procedures. In addition, 75 percent of stations visited were in urban areas, whilst 25 percent were in rural areas. Equally, about 75 percent of the voting stations visited were fixed, and 25 percent were mobile. Koroma said the AUEOM observed that the polling environment was peaceful and calm throughout the voting day.
"Security agents were present throughout the day, and their conduct was described as professional and discreet," he noted.
Although, he says there were long queues in most of the polling stations visited, the queues were well controlled, and priority was given to the elderly, Persons with Disabilities (PWDs), and pregnant and nursing mothers. The AUEOM commended the voters for their high level of tolerance as they waited to cast their votes. The AUEOM noted that a majority of about 78 percent of the polling stations visited opened on time. In cases where they opened late, the mission said it was due to the pre-poll test that took longer than the anticipated one hour before polls opened. In a number of polling stations, presiding officers reported that opening delayed because of the late arrival of party agents. Further, the mission noted secrecy of the vote was guaranteed in the majority (89 percent) of polling stations visited.
The remaining 11 percent indicated that secrecy of the vote could have been compromised because of inadequate space.
Koroma maintained in 13 percent of the polling stations visited, observers noted that voting stopped as a result of electronic voting machines (EVMs) malfunctioning or incidents of voters tripping on the machine's cables.
In four percent of the polling stations visited, the EVMs were unlocked because the buttons had been pressed too hard.
The AUEOM also noted that in all these cases, the EVMs maintained their memory of total votes cast after rebooting, and no discrepancies arose.
AU mission observers recommended that Namibia consider introducing the Voter Verifiable Paper Audit Trail (VVPAT) component to the EVMs, with the aim of improving transparency and building trust in the voting process.
It also recommended ECN familiarises voters with the EVMs through increased voter education that allows for regular interface with the voting machines.
AUEOM observed voters being turned away in 16 percent of the polling stations visited because their voter cards were invalid. Based on its observations and the findings, the AUEOM concluded 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 AUEOM commended the Namibian government for ratifying the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance as recommended by the AUEOM following the 2014 general elections.