April 2, 2004

Resistance to referendum

Strong resistance to the possibility of amending the Constitution - again - to allow for a fourth term for President Sam Nujoma is mounting in civil society and the ruling Swapo Party itself. IN this context, an "anti-fourth term movement", spearheaded by some local NGOs as well as leaders within the Swapo Party, is set to be launched in the capital. "We are not against President Nujoma as a person... our campaign will focus on manoeuvres to tamper with the Constitution," said one rights activist. "

As the 2004 election draws ever nearer, the presidential succession debate is threatening to polarise Namibian politics. Speculation has mounted in recent months that Nujoma might bid for a fourth term. The President has remained circumspect when asked to comment on the issue. On various occasions, he has been quoted as indicating he would stand down when his term ends in 2005, but in the meantime he changed his tune by saying that "one cannot ignore the call by the people, because the people are the ones who make the final decision".

The anti-fourth term coalition hopes to tap into the experiences of similar movements, which successfully blocked attempts to have unconstitutional presidential terms by President in neighbouring Zambia and Malawi. The Namibian Constitution, drafted at Independence in 1990, limits the president to two five-year terms. In 1999, a loophole allowed the ruling party to amend the country's supreme law to allow President Nujoma to stand for his third term. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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