Namibia: Only 34 000 New Voters Registered

14 September 2020

THE Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has so far only managed to register 34 270 first-time voters countrywide for the upcoming regional council and local authority elections slated for November.

About 61 980 voters either renewed or amended their voters' cards to indicate their new area of residence during the ongoing voters' registration process.

These figures were revealed by ECN's chief electoral officer, Theo Mujoro, in a statement issued yesterday.

The ongoing supplementary voters' registration process was intended to register eligible voters who turned 18 after 2014, those who have either lost or damaged their voters' cards, and those who have relocated to new constituencies or local authority areas after 2014.

Currently the national voters' register stands at about 1,3 million voters. This is more than half of Namibia's population of approximately 2,5 million people.

Out of the 1,3 million registered voters, only 370 000 people are registered to vote in local authority elections. The ECN had estimated that over 240 000 Namibians were eligible to vote in last year's presidential and National Assembly elections for the first time. The supplementary registration process, which started last week Monday, is expected to end tomorrow. Mujoro said the commission was "happy" with the way the public responded, despite "teething problems" with the biometric voters' registration kits at a few registration points, he said.

Some political parties are, however, not satisfied with the way the ECN has managed the process, calling for a two-week extension.

The process has been very slow and took place mainly during working hours, they complained.

Other criticism includes that the process was allowed to take place under the current Covid-19-imposed curfew. Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) leader McHenry Venaani on Friday said it is "only logical" that the process is extended as its slow pace is not satisfactory.

Daniel Tsaneb, the United Democratic Front (UDF) candidate for the Arandis constituency, believes the travel ban for the Khomas region will have an impact on voter turnout.

"The lockdown has disadvantaged many voters from other constituencies who are locked in the Khomas region," Tsaneb said.

Aloisius Kangulu, regional coordinator for the Independent Patriots for Change (IPC) in the Erongo region, shared the same sentiment.

The exclusion of fishermen from the registration process angered opposition parties and independent candidates, as the ECN has made no special provision for these voters.

Some fishing companies are keeping their crew members on board vessels as a measure to avoid contamination from the community.

"We tried to take up the issues with the regional coordinator who told us that special provisions are only made during presidential and National Assembly elections. This is denying someone their right to vote," said Kangulu.

The Affirmative Repositioning (AR) movement at Walvis Bay accused the commission of not having an interest in registering many people by ignoring to implement continuous voters' registration.

"The Electoral Act makes provision for three types of registrations: general, continuous and supplementary. Continuous voters' registration was meant to address these things, and they have now taken it away," said AR representative Absalom Phillipus. Mujoro said the registration process cannot be extended because it will delay other processes on the electoral calendar.

"If we do that we will not be able to complete the voters' register and we wont finish with the nomination of candidates on time," he said.

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