Namibia poll results trickle in, Swapo set to win

First results from Namibia’s presidential and parliamentary elections trickled in on Monday, but too few to show whether a new opposition would break up the ruling party’s two-thirds majority it has held since 1995.

Results from three of the 107 constituencies, about 8 600 votes from 1,18-million registered voters, have been confirmed so far in the resource-rich nation.

First results from the parliamentary election showed the ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation (Swapo) with 3 455 votes, the National Unity Democratic Organisation of Namibia with 1 715 and the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) with 1 291.

Delays in releasing results after polls closed on Saturday have been criticised by observers and opposition parties who say there were voting and counting irregularities which the electoral commission failed to address.

But Moses Ndjarakana, director of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), dismissed the allegations and said while some small inconsistencies had been observed, they had been addressed, and counting was progressing well.

“There have been no delays and I expect that things will pick up today. We have to be thorough with this ... it’s a transparent process with party agents and observers on site.
Our target is still to announce results tomorrow,” he told Reuters.

Votes are counted at the polling stations and results posted outside to ensure transparency and curtail any election rigging, as alleged by opposition parties in 2004. A recount of the votes then confirmed Swapo as the winner, with 55 of the 72 seats.

First unconfirmed results published by local media, who collected data displayed outside some of the polling stations, saw Swapo on course to win another five-year term, with a strong challenge from the RDP, seen becoming the official opposition.

Of about 27 000 votes, Swapo claimed 61% and the RDP 20%, the Namibian newspaper reported. Out of 13 000 unofficial presidential votes, President Hifikepunye Pohamba led with 53%, with RDP’s Hidipo Hamutenya taking 29%.

Some of the smaller opposition parties, struggling due to internal battles, are likely to disappear from the political arena, analysts said.

No jobs, no services
Lying between economic powerhouse South Africa and oil-producing Angola, Namibia has enjoyed a long period of political and economic prosperity that has made its 2,2-million people the envy of many in Africa.

But unemployment and the lack of improvement in health, education and sanitation services dominated the election campaigns, with poverty and lack of jobs aggravated by the global economic downturn.

The economy in Namibia, a diamond producer and home to 10% of the world’s uranium output, is expected to contract by 0,6% in 2009, before recovering in 2010 on higher commodity prices and a rise in mining output.

Like the ruling party, most opposition parties have promised jobs and to improve the services which Swapo has been trying to put in place in the past two decades. The opposition parties said more had to be done and faster.

Analysts expect Swapo, the former guerrilla movement that led the country to independence in 1990, to win, but said a stronger opposition led by the RDP would help keep the government transparent and accountable.

Swapo has held a two-thirds majority, enabling it to alter the constitution, since 1995. The RDP, which broke away from Swapo in 2007, is seen as its sternest political challenge yet.

Fourteen parties were contesting the election and 12 presidential candidates were listed.—Reuters

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