SA observers heckled while declaring Namibian poll free and fair

South Africa’s international relations minister was heckled while declaring elections in Namibia free and fair on Sunday, while the ruling Swapo party leading in the nine percent of votes released so far.

“The SADC Electoral Observer Mission (SEOM) concludes that the 2014 presidential and parliamentary elections in Namibia on Friday were peaceful, transparent, free and fair and credible, reflecting the will of the Namibian people,” South Africa’s Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane declared on Sunday.

The 98 election observers deployed in 24 teams all over Namibia however observed on election day that some polling stations opened late, which delayed voting, and also noted the failure of some electronic voting machines (EVMs).

“The SEOM noted delays in opening of some polling stations due to election officials’ lack of clarity on the use of the EVMS, like operator’s error as well as the EVMs’ failure to operate and consistent breakdown of the voter verification devices in some cases,” said Nkoana-Mashabane, who is head of the SADC regional electoral observer mission.

Her statement was interrupted by shouts of a few members of the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) party, who were present. “No, elections were not free and fair, that is not true,” the four NEFF members shouted before being ushered out of the room.

Voter education
The SADC observer mission recommended that more civic and voter education should be conducted in future “throughout the electoral cycle”, and that local observers be encouraged to play a greater role in election processes.

Election law should be amended to reduce sworn statements for voters to register, and to set aside a special voting day for police and soldiers as well as essential workers, the observer mission advised.

By noon on Sunday Swapo presidential candidate Hage Geingob led with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far, followed by McHenry Venaani of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) with 7,10 percent. Hidipo Hamutenya of the RDP (Rally for Democracy and Progress) was third in the race with 3,7 percent.

Thousands of voters could not vote on Friday as technical glitches with EVMS and malfunctioning hand-held scanners to verify voter cards and fingerprints of voters delayed the process. Voters waited up to seven hours to vote and long queues remained until the early hours of Saturday morning.

About 1 241 194 voters registered for the 2014 elections. Namibia is the first African country that introduced electronic voting. – Sapa

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