Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 43, November 2009
Unemployment, service delivery dominate Namibian elections
By Kizito Sikuka

Unemployment, service delivery and poverty are some of the main issues dominating the election campaign as Namibians prepare for presidential and parliamentary elections on 27 and 28 November.

A total of 14 political parties have successfully filed their nomination papers to take part in the elections, according to the Electoral Commission of Namibia.

These include the ruling South West Africa Peopleís Organization (SWAPO) led by President Hifikepunye Pohamba, who is seeking re-election for a second and last term in office.

Opposition parties include the Congress of Democrats (CoD) and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA).

SWAPO has never lost an election since independence in 1990. However, many Namibians say not enough has been done to tackle issues such as poverty, unemployment and poor service delivery.

"Unemployment among our people is a key issue if we want a stable country," one voter told New Era. "Itís no use to have political freedom when we do not have economic freedom."

The voter said political parties should implement policies contained in their manifestoes as they are in most cases good and people centered.

Interestingly all the six parties have pledged to address employment, improve service delivery and access to education if they win the November election.

Pohamba has said that, while evidence is there for all to see what SWAPO has done over the past 20 years, there is need for the party to improve service delivery and ensure Namibians have access to a better living.

"Nothing can be taken for granted, or left to chance. We must put the necessary plans in place, and execute them to the last detail," Pohamba told party supporters.

He urged people to turn out in large numbers during election day and exercise their democratic right to elect a new president and members of parliament for the next five years.

Pohamba took over the leadership of SWAPO in 2004 from Namibiaís founding President Sam Nujoma.

More than 900,000 people have registered to vote. Namibia has a population of about 1.9 million.

CoD leader Ben Ulenga has promised to create more jobs and improve service delivery. He says, if elected, "people will have access to health care and quality education."

The DTA also promises more jobs and improved service delivery for all Namibians.

Campaigning will end on 25 November for the polls set over two days. Opposition parties had however demanded that voting takes place in a single day.

They argue that the size of Namibia is too small to warrant voting over two days, adding that the system can led to vote rigging and other corrupt practices since voting counting will be done at the polling stations.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia announced the new system following a heated debate in Parliament. The system aims among other things to encourage more people to vote as well as to promote free, fair and credible elections.

Namibia uses the First Past The Post electoral system for presidential elections, in which the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner, and Proportional Representation (PR) is used for legislative elections.

Under the PR system, each political party submits a list of candidates and then the parties receive seats proportional to their overall share of the national vote. The national assembly has 72 seats.

SWAPO won the last presidential election in 2004 with 76 percent of the votes and secured 55 parliamentary seats, while the opposition CoD had seven percent and five seats respectively.

The remaining seats and votes were shared by the other parties. Analysts predict a similar result in November - but this time the question is by what margin taking into account the presence of a new political party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress.

Regional and international election observers including the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) are expected to monitor the polls.

They will monitor the elections in three phases for pre-election, elections, and post-election.

A report on how Namibia conducted its elections will be released after the polls. The pre-election period has been calm and quiet, according to media reports.

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