March 11, 2005

Court orders elections recount

In a landmark decision, the High Court in Windhoek has ordered a recount of votes the National Assembly election of 2004. It also declared the official results, as published in the Government Gazette of January 3, null and void and of no force and effect. The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has to start the recount within the next five days and the announcement of the result should be made no later than March 19. The ECN will also have to pay the legal costs incurred by the Republican Party (RP) and Congress of Democrats (CoD) in bringing the matter to court. The ruling also sets back the swearing-in of the fourth parliament by a day - from the scheduled date of March 20 - but does not affect the inauguration of the new President on March 21.
"Whilst we deem it inappropriate at this time to express any views on the legal consequences of the constitutional vacuum which might result if members of the fourth National Assembly cannot take up their seats, such a state of affairs will be most undesirable in the running of the affairs of the State," said Judge Petrus Damaseb, who read the ruling to a highly charged courtroom on behalf of the bench, which included Judges Simpson Mtambanengwe and Gerhard Maritz. The Judges are expected to provide reasons for their ruling within the next two weeks.
The RP and CoD took the ECN and the seven other political parties that contested the November National Assembly election to court, asking for the election to be declared null and void, or alternatively that the results are set aside and a recount ordered. They claimed widespread election irregularities in the counting and tallying of votes and the subsequent allocation of seats. (The Namibian, Windhoek)

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