|SWAPO, Nujoma surge ahead
by Kondwani Chirambo and Pamela Chinaka
WINDHOEK, 3 December 1999
President Sam Nujoma roars further ahead, his party the South West African Peoples Organisation(SWAPO) heads for a resounding victory while a fragmented opposition scrambles for second position and at least a seat in the 72-member national assembly.
Swapo appears on course to retain its two thirds majority in the national assembly and its president is almost certainly primed for a landslide. But it is, as expected, the fight for second slot that is taking all the interest at the moment.
The Congress of Democrats(CoD), formed only this year by ex-swapo members, has taken a slender lead over the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance(DTA), until now the official parliamentary opposition.
By 10.00hrs this morning, Swapo had garnered 123,462 votes from 47 constituencies, CoD 20,167 , DTA 18,150 out of 174, 583 votes counted. For a while the United Democratic Front(UDF) appeared to be the surprise pack trailing the two closely. But the gap has widened leaving the UDF in fourth slot at 9,319.
Four smaller contenders, the Monitor Action Group(MAG) stand at 1,981, the South West African National Union(SWANU) 637, Democratic Coalition of Namibia(DCN) 563, Federal Convention of Namibia(FCN) 304.
Namibians watched the scene unfold through the night on national television, heard it all on radio; blurry eyed officials shifted one fax after the other to the computer network that finally relays the figures to the results screens-103 constituencies in all must report back the final result.
Forty seven constituencies have reported presidential and national assembly results-and 71 percent of the votes counted so far belong to Swapo.
Nujoma, running for a third term of office against a current of disquiet from the opposition, was galloping at 136,993 with his nearest rival, the former diplomat and leader of the CoD Ben Ulenga trailing at 29,321.
Ulenga resigned as London-based diplomat after Swapo sponsored legislation in parliament to amend the constitution and allow Nujoma a third term of Office.
Swapo argued that Nujoma was elected by a constituent assembly-not by direct vote as by law required-in the 1989 pre-independence elections.
Although the constitution allowed for a two-term presidency of five years each, the ruling party maintained that Nujoma's first legitimate election by direct vote was in the 1994 national polls and that he was technically eligible for a third. The national assembly, in which Swapo held 53 of the 72 seats passed the amendments late in 1998.
Trends in eleven of the country's 13 regions under-line assertions that Nujoma and Swapo still enjoy popular support, a legacy carried over from the pre-independence era when it led a liberation war against Apartheid South African rule.
In the Caprivi region, where separatist attacks last august raised worries of instability in the country, Nujoma has beaten all opposition by wide margins.
A sweep of its northern region strongholds, where more than 300,000 of the 850,000 plus registered voters dwell, has given Nujoma and Swapo a big push toward an overwhelming triumph.
In the list-proportional representation electoral system used at parliamentary level,however, minority parties stand a fair chance of gaining a place in the national assembly as the total number of votes earned is divided by the size of the house(72 elective seats) to translate into seats per party.
This is a country of 1.6 million people, with an economy driven by export-focussed mining. Diamonds are a key source of foreign earnings but fishing has been its fastest growing sector.
But Namibia has one of the most uneven distribution of income in the world and Nujoma's government has set as priority,l strategies to raise per capita income, transform the private sector and encourage manufacturing and tourism.
The oppostion CoD believes the ruling party has not done much to meet these goals and singles out agriculture, around which 70 percent of the population directly or indirectly depend, as one of the weakest points. Ulenga says CoD would institute a major land reform, executed within the framework of the constitution.
The government has said it set its sights on combating the inequitable system of land ownership since independence, which is divided into massive white-owned ranches and marginal communal subsistence farming. Namibia's white population, a combination of German and South African stock, is estimated at 90,000.
Under the commercial land reform Act of 1994, the state is allowed to buy up empty or under-utilised commercial farms for redistribution to peasants.
Strong campaigns around these and other issues such as unemployment, have helped to catapault the CoD into a favourable position while the commitment to pre-independence electioneering promises seem to maintain Swapo's high profile. (SARDC)