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Vol 60 No 24

Published 5th December 2019


Hage's hubris

The election outcome for SWAPO was even worse than expected. The writing is on the wall for the ruling party

Everyone was expecting the electorate to deliver a snub to the ruling SWAPO Party in the 27 November general election – but not quite the loud slap that eventuated. After three days the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) finally announced that President Hage Geingob had been re-elected with 56% of the vote, a 31-point fall on his score of five years ago. It marks the beginning of his second and final term.

SWAPO lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority, and with it the option of shooing in constitutional change, having taken 66% of the popular vote, compared with 85% in 2014 returning 63 MPs, against 77 last time.

The President was unfazed by the outcome, not appearing to see much significance in the results. 'There is always a loser and a winner,' he said, 'so I'm glad that out of this competition, which was tough, I emerged as a victor. It is not a joke. It is a heavy responsibility on my shoulders, but I was there already, so I will just continue.'

The ECN's vote-collating and verification procedures were slow and there were technical problems with some Electronic Voting Machines. McHenry Venaani, who came third in the presidential poll but saw his party, the right-of-centre Popular Democratic Movement (formally the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia – DTA) treble its MPs to 16, said his party did not accept the election outcome, given the 'number of anomalies' recorded during the vote count. Venaani, who refused to attend the official results announcement on 30 November, said his party may decide to mount a legal challenge.

Independent presidential candidate Panduleni Itula, a SWAPO member but a supporter of the party's anti-Geingob faction, secured 29% of the vote, more than any non-official SWAPO candidate since independence in 1990. Itula beat Geingob in the two most economically-important regions, Khomas, which includes the capital, Windhoek, and Erongo, which contains Walvis Bay and the uranium mines. Venaani came a distant third on 5% of the vote, while Bernadus Swartbooi, leader of the radical Landless Peoples' Movement (LPM), came second in the two southern regions of Hardap and Karas.

There, the mainly Nama population claim that SWAPO has ignored their demand for the return of 'ancestral' land seized by white settlers during the colonial era. The LPM won four seats in parliament and is joined there by the far-left Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF), which has ties to South Africa's Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) and won two seats.

SWAPO will come under much stronger pressure to accelerate land redistribution although expropriation is ruled out by the constitution. Shorn of its two-thirds majority it will now need opposition backing to amend it in order to permit such a measure.

The lower vote for SWAPO was also a protest by voters against the disastrous revelation of alleged bribery by Iceland's biggest fishing company to obtain Namibia's fishing quotas, and the subsequent resignation of two cabinet ministers. The scandal has not yet run its course by any means (AC Vol 60 No 23, SWAPO stumbles).

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