Pohamba proves surprisingly popular

One of the biggest surprises of the Namibian elections has been that Hifikepunye Pohamba, the South West African People’s Organisation (Swapo) presidential candidate, polled more votes than his party despite persistent references that he is a puppet of the more popular Sam Nujoma.

Even during the election campaign Pohamba kept a low profile. His strength, according to University of Namibia academic Phanuel Kaapama, was that he “met white farmers to allay their fears, met business as a confidence-building mechanism and reassured voters that he would maintain the status quo and that his policies would not differ from Nujoma’s”.

Pohamba will be sworn in as president on March 21 — Namibian Independence Day.
Swapo retained the 55 seats it currently occupies in the National Assembly, but former foreign minister Hidipo Hamutenya — who challenged Pohamba for the Swapo presidential nomination — did not make the cut as he is outside the top 55. So, too, is the former deputy prime minister Hendrik Witbooi, the great-grandson of the Nama chief by the same name whose face adorns the Namibian dollar note. Ambassadorial postings or political advisory roles could be in the offing for both.

But the biggest loser was the Congress of Democrats, whose seats were slashed from seven to five, and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, down from seven to four. The United Democratic Front and the National Unity Democratic Organisation claimed three seats each and the predominantly white Monitor Action Group and Republican Party one apiece.

Swapo support is up by 200 000 votes, increasing its showing outside its traditional support base in Erongo on the Swakopmund and Walvis Bay coast (15 000), the Khomas region that includes the capital Windhoek and Katutura township (42 000), the Karas region around Luderitz (12 000) and its heartland in the north (80 000).

At the end of this month Namibians go to the polls again to elect the Regional Council — the second chamber of Parliament where Swapo currently controls 11 of the 13 regions.

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