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Namibia's  Ruling Party Elects Presidential Candidate - 2004-05-30

Namibia's ruling SWAPO party has chosen a candidate to run for president in general elections scheduled for November. The candidate was the preferred choice of President Sam Nujoma.

The man expected to be elected Namibia's next president, Land Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba, won the nomination in a second round of voting, with 341 votes to the 167 cast in favor of former Foreign Minister Hidipo Hamutenya.

If elected, Mr. Pohamba will replace President Nujoma, who has led Namibia since independence in 1990. Mr. Nujoma will have completed three five-year terms in office. He will remain leader of SWAPO until 2007.

At the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Professor John Stremlau, said it is important that another southern African country is having a peaceful, constitutional transfer of power. Other countries to do so include Zambia, Malawi and South Africa.

Professor Stremlau, who specializes in Southern Africa, says it is a strong indication that the region, in his words, is tipping in the right political direction.

Mr. Stremlau says such transitions help strengthen South Africa's hand, as it gently keeps pushing for restraints on executive powers and on indefinite terms of office in the region.

Like Mr. Nujoma, the new candidate, Mr. Pohamba is a founding member of SWAPO, the South West Africa People's Organization, and veteran of Namibia's struggle for liberation from South Africa, which was then controlled by the white minority.

He is the architect of Namibia's land reform policies, and analysts expect that, if elected, he will move to speed up their implementation.

SWAPO remains Namibia's dominant party, and analysts say Mr. Pohamba can confidently expect to become the country's next president.

Accepting the nomination Sunday, he promised to devote himself to the development of the Namibian people and to work for peace and democracy.