Namibia: Slow Turnout for By-Elections

THE voting in yesterday's constituency by-elections got off to a slow start, with presiding officers predicting that numbers would pick up after working hours.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) yesterday conducted by-elections in Windhoek, at Keetmanshoop, Gobabis and Walvis Bay to replace councillors who resigned last year to take a gamble for seats in the National Assembly.

Khomasdal constituency

In Windhoek, the by-election for the Khomasdal constituency councillor kicked off with a low turnout with only a handful of voters having turned up at polling stations by 08h00, despite their opening an hour earlier.

Nampa visited seven of the 15 polling stations in the constituency and the only polling station that recorded a high number of voters at the time was Augustinium Secondary School polling station, where four people had voted by 08h15.

Presiding officer, Negumbo Benjamin, said things were going smoothly except that they had to turn away voters from different constituencies.

Other polling stations were Acacia High School, which had one voter by 08h00, Gammams Primary School with two, and the Mao Zedong High School at Otjomuise, where the presiding officer could not provide the exact number of voters that had cast their votes, conceding only that they were few. The Khomasdal constituency by-election was necessitated by the resignation of former councillor Margaret Mensah-Williams last year.

Candidates in the race for the Khomasdal constituency position are Samuel Angolo representing the Swapo Party alongside Reggie Diergaardt for the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Mara Baumgartner for the Landless People's Movement (LPM) and Bartholomeus Tjiunomuinjo Kauahuma for Swanu.

Keetmanshoop constituency

At Keemtanshoop, a steady stream of voters trickled into each of the nine polling stations in the constituency yesterday morning to vote for their favourite candidates running for the constituency seat.

The candidates are LPM member Maxie Minnaar, PDM representative Abraham Goagoseb and Festus Shilimela of Swapo.

Presiding officers told The Namibian that about 300 people had voted at each of the nine polling stations at Keetmanshoop.

About 11 000 voters were eligible to vote in the by-election.

The ECN returning officer for //Kharas region, Richard /Narib, said he was pleased with the voter turnout and described it as "quite satisfactory".

The returning officer said they expected a larger voter turnout after working hours yesterday.

"It is a working day, therefore, the voter turnout is low but steady. I think it (voting) will pick up when people knock off from work," he said.

/Narib said no technical glitches were reported during the voting, and added that voter education the ECN conducted had been effective.

He, however, said a few people who were registered as voters in other constituencies had turned up to vote in the by-election.

"Our officials explained to them that they are not eligible to vote in this by-election," he added.

Walvis Bay URBAN

Meanwhile, hundreds of Walvis Bay Urban residents flocked to the different polling stations at the town to choose between four youthful candidates for the constituency. The position for constituency councillor is being contested by two independent candidates, Knowledge Ndunge Ipinge and Jason Kenneth Ilonga. Other candidates are Swapo Party's Sirie Topulathana and Richard Hoaeb representing PDM.

The four are vying for the position left vacant after the resignation of long-serving Hafeni Ndemula ahead of the 2019 presidential and National Assembly elections.

The by-election kicked off with a low turn-out at some polling stations. The ECN has set up the 10 fixed polling stations and nine mobile ones for the by-election.

Kuisebmond community hall was the busiest of the polling stations and had about 300 voters casting their ballots before 10h00.

"My time is over, I am old, but we have to vote for community leaders who will ensure a conducive environment for us. Walvis Bay must become a good place again," said kuku Martha Andima, who cast her vote at Kuisebmond community hall.

Electronic voting machines were used during the by-elections. Some voters said that they have little confidence in the machines.

"It's only the government or ECN that can have confidence in their machines. We use them because they are imposed on us. What can we do? We have to do it. There is a case against their use and we hope that one day we will get rid of them," said one voter.

Another constituency resident said: "I am not sure if the EVMs are really working as we expect them to. I am not sure but I have to vote for my leader who will lead this community."

Whoever takes over the administration of the constituency will be faced with an upsurge in unemployment and housing shortages, which is attributed to the influx of people from rural areas in search of job opportunities at the town.

Walvis Bay Urban constituency is home to the fishing industry, which is the country's second biggest foreign currency earner after mining.

The new councillor will be sworn-in today at the Erongo Regional Council office.

Gobabis constituency

At Gobabis, the by-election got off to a very slow start yesterday morning at the eight fixed and 19 mobile polling stations.

At four of the eight fixed polling stations that Nampa visited, no voters were seen queuing at the Gobabis municipality polling station by 07h00 .

At Epako community hall polling station, 14 voters had cast their votes by 07h20 and presiding officer Dortea Tobias told Nampa that the voting process was moving at a slow but smooth pace with no difficulties experienced.

At Epako municipality, only 37 people had voted by 07h40, while at Rukutuka Primary School polling station, 49 voters had cast their votes by 08h00.

The presiding officer at Rakutuka Primary School polling station, Ritja Muriambihu, said although everything was progressing well, very few voters had shown up.

"We are only seeing elderly voters arriving to vote at the moment. Maybe because the youth and middle-aged voters have other priorities given that school just re-opened today and also it's a working day," Muriambihu said, adding that they expected numbers to pick up after 18h00.

The Gobabis constituency has 13 457 registered voters.

Four candidates are contesting the by-election. They are Tebele Augustinus representing the Swapo Party, Kauesa Iuonga Elvis, an independent candidate, Modise Ellenterius Braynie representing the PDM and Binga Sylvester Daniel of the LPM.

Polling stations closed at 21h00 last night, and results were expected to be announced later yesterday. - Additional reporting by Nampa

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