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Namibia Election Returns Show SWAPO Headed for Landslide Win

  • Scott Bobb

Ruling South West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) is winning about three-fourths of votes cast in initial returns.

Initial returns from all of Namibia's 107 voting districts show that the ruling South West Africa People's Organization has won a landslide victory with more than three-fourths of the votes cast. But a new party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress, is poised to assume leadership of the opposition with 11 percent of the vote.

The results indicate that SWAPO, the former guerrilla group that fought for Namibian independence, will retain its two-thirds majority in parliament and its leader, President Hifikepunye Pohamba, has been elected to a second five-year term.

The director of Windhoek's Institute for Public Policy Research, Graham Hopwood, says the results show that SWAPO leaders have retained their traditional support while also attracting new voters. "They have sustained their popularity because they are still regarded as the liberators of the country. But increasingly there is evidence that they must be convincing younger voters, people who can't remember before 1990 when Namibia became independent, that they can deliver and they have delivered some social improvements in people's lives," he said.

A new party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress, is poised to become the opposition leader in parliament.

The RDP was formed two years ago after its leader, former foreign minister Hidipo Hamutenya, lost his bid for leadership of SWAPO following the retirement of Namibia's first president Sam Nujoma.

Hopwood notes that Hamutenya and several other RDP leaders are former senior SWAPO officials and are well known to voters. "They (RDP) haven't really impacted very much on the SWAPO votes but they have taken their votes from all the other opposition parties. They've done well in urban areas, possibly amongst younger voters, but they haven't been able to touch SWAPO in most of the rural areas of the country," he said.

He says as a result several smaller opposition parties are likely to lose their seats in parliament and others may disappear altogether.

Opposition leaders and some civic groups say there were numerous irregularities in the polls and are debating whether to challenge the results in court.

International observers have acknowledged flaws, particularly in the voter registration list and vote tabulation. But they say the deficiencies were not widespread enough to influence the overall outcome and have declared the elections free and credible.

A political science professor at the University of Namibia, Andre du Pisani, says SWAPO has delivered some social improvements during its two decades in power. "Namibia is still in the complex phase of what one might broadly call its second independence, which is a socio-economic transition almost two decades after independence. So I think electorate would like to have continuity. They would like to have stability. They would like to see consistency in policy, not a major rupture from we had in the last two decades," he said.

He says this tended to favor the ruling party. In addition, he says the opposition campaigned on a platform of change which apparently did not appeal to most of the electorate.