|26. November 2015
Regional and local elections tomorrow
Opposition representation in Namibia's local authorities and regional councils might take a heavy knock tomorrow, to the extent that the National Council will consist of Swapo members only.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) director, Graham Hopwood, made this warning when he told The Namibian yesterday that he expects the ruling party to increase its grip on local authorities, despite widespread irregularities and corruption at those institutions.
He predicted that Swapo will take around 115 of the 121 constituencies. Hopwood also tipped the ruling party to grab the Kunene region from the opposition.
Hopwood said there may be some local factors that affect results such as alleged corruption in certain regions but in general voting will follow the pattern of the 2014 election with Swapo dominating almost completely and the opposition presence being reduced to a few pockets of support.
“We could end up with a 28-member National Council that is composed only of Swapo members of parliament,” he said.
The National Council reviews bills passed by the National Assembly and recommends legislation on matters of regional concern.
Support for opposition parties have been nosediving over the past decade.
In the 2010 regional election, the opposition won in nine constituencies while the combined total of opposition candidates' votes in another 11 constituencies exceeded the winning Swapo candidate's number of votes.
Four years later, opposition parties' support substantially decreased. In the National Assembly election of last year, opposition parties won in only five constituencies. In another four constituencies, the total number of votes for opposition parties were more than the votes cast for Swapo.
According to the 2010 results, opposition strongholds were in Kunene, where the DTA and UDF won five of the six constituencies, and Omaheke where Nudo won two of the region's seven constituencies.
With last year's National Assembly elections, DTA only won one constituency in Kunene, while the UDF did not win any. Nudo retained the majorities in two constituencies in Omaheke and one in Otjozondjupa.
The only constitution that the RDP won in 2010 was the Windhoek East constituency. In that year, it was a two-horse race between Swapo and RDP. However, the ruling party won a large majority in that constituency last year, and in this year's regional council elections the opposition vote might be split between RDP and DTA candidates.
Constituencies in which the fielding of a single opposition candidate would have given other parties a better chance to beat the Swapo candidate include Katutura Central in Khomas, Dâures in Erongo, and Epupa and Sesfontein in Kunene region. In all of those constituencies though, the opposition parties are competing against one another as well.
The turnout at the last regional and local elections was below 40%.
Asked about the reasons for the low turnout, Hopwood said voters sense that these levels of government are not very important in terms of political power, especially regional councils.
“Most key decisions are made in Windhoek and not by democratically elected bodies in the regions,” he said, adding that councillors have not been accountable to voters and remain remote and even unknown figures.
He said that the lack of a ward system at local authority level means councillors are not accountable to local communities and hence not working for improvements in residents' quality of life. The commentator predicts that a lower turnout might be due to growing frustrations over poverty, unemployment, land and housing.
DTA LOOKING AT GROWTH
DTA is looking at picking up from where it left off during last year's national elections.
In tomorrow's elections, the party wants to regain some of the support it used to enjoy shortly after independence.
DTA parliamentarian Nico Smit said the party is confident that it will significantly improve in the 18 constituencies it already holds in regional councils nationally. “We are ready. We worked hard, we criss-crossed the country and are confident that we will do well,” he said.
Smit said that the party is specifically looking at improving its support base in the Hardap and //Karas regions where it used to enjoy support but lost such support in the last three elections.
RDP NOT MOVED
RDP spokesperson Nghiningiluandubo Kashuume said the fact that other parties are approaching RDP candidates and asking them to defect is a sign that they are doing well.
The party said it is not moved by a number of founding members moving back to Swapo.
“That will depend on how principled Namibians are,” said RDP vice president Steve Bezuidenhout, who added that people do not go to church because of personalities but due to their principles.
He noted that it is becoming fashionable for political leaders to leave their parties to join the ruling party but he said tomorrow's elections will be determined by how the candidates served their respective communities before election date.
SWAPO'S SMOOTH SAILING
Swapo secretary general Nangolo Mbumba said the party invested a lot of energy in the campaigning process. He said even retired Swapo leaders joined to help the party. He said Swapo is expecting stiff competition in constituencies where it does not traditionally have a support base, but said he is only waiting for the election results.
All People's Party (APP) president Ignatius Shixwameni said they want to capture at least five constituencies. This will be the first time his party will compete in the regional elections.
The opposition has been accused by commentators of failing to provide viable alternatives to Swapo.
Shixwameni, a former Swapo leader, insisted that they have something different to offer.
“Swapo is corrupt. We are not going to allow leaders to dish out land to their relatives and friends. Our leaders will be servants and not bosses like Swapo's,” Shixwameni said.
(The Namibian, Windhoek)