The Electoral Commission of Namibia will need almost N$500 million in the coming financial year to conduct voter education and voter registration for the next cycle of National and Presidential Elections slated for November 2024.
This is according to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Peter Katjivi, who motivated a budget allocation of N$421 930 000 for the successful implementation of ECN programmes for the next year.
He pointed out that the budget ceiling will leave the ECN with a shortfall of N$60 million.
Despite this shortfall, he stated that the ECN will have to discharge its duties successfully and thereby uphold the democratic principles and tenets of democracy enshrined in the Namibian Constitution and the Electoral Law.
“In compliance with Section 63(1) of the Electoral Act, Act No.5 of 2014, Namibia is required to conduct the next Presidential and National Assembly Elections towards the end of November 2024. In addition, in terms of Section 25 (1) of the Electoral Act, the Commission is obliged to also conduct a General Registration of Voters not later than ten years after the last general registration,” he argued.
According to Katjivivi, the last General Registration of Voters took place during the first three months of 2014.
“The next General Registration of Voters is scheduled to take place during the first three months of 2024,” he said.
According to Katjivivi, the Act requires the Commission to roll out a nationwide voter and civic education programme as well as surveys to determine factors that contribute towards voter apathy and lower turnout in electoral processes.
“Voter apathy and low voter turnout have been eminently evident during the period of 1998 – 2020 in respect of the Presidential and National Assembly Elections and Regional Council and Local Authority Elections as well as all by-elections held during the same period,” he said.
He said that ECN undertook a review of its electoral management systems which necessitated gradual and systematic enhancement of the current Mobile Voter Registration System (MVRS) to an advanced version referred to as an “Integrated Mobile Voter Registration System (IMVRS)” after the 2019 and 2020 national elections.
“The implementation of this project is premised on the principle of “building on the existing technology” aimed at enhancing and integrating electoral management systems including voter registration, registration of political parties and organizations, voter identification and verification during voting as well as election results management and transmission systems. This will be in preparation for the 2024 General Registration of Voters and Presidential and National Assembly Elections,” he said.
Katjavivi said that the Commission will engage stakeholders with a view to inform them about the newly enhanced voter registration system and the value addition to the electoral process through increased efficiency.
He said the ECN confirmed that the Project Concept, Design and Development of the Integrated Version is at an advanced stage and is on course and this will be followed by a simulation exercise aimed at piloting and testing, the new version of IMVRS during 2023. He added that during the 2023/2024 Financial Year, the Commission is planning to procure additional tablet-based mobile voter registration kits (MVRKs) to complement the existing voter registration technologies.
The budget allocation the Speaker requested is also aimed at recruiting, training and deploying 7 850 officials that will include youth ambassadors, supervisors, team leaders, registration officers, IT technicians and administrative support staff. In this regard, training is planned to take place in established clusters across the country. In addition to the officials, the ECN will also need at least 1 500 vehicles during the General Registration of Voters. He said the vehicles will be rented from various ministries, offices and agencies.
He stated that the total amount of N$421 930 000 is requested for consideration and approval.
“Out of that total, N$59 733 000 as been allocated for personnel expenditure and N$362 197 000 for non-personnel expenditure including the preparation for national elections with a specific focus on the conduct of the General Registration of Voters,” he said.
Katajavivi added that it is worth noting that the budget request still has a shortfall of N$60 000 000 which will definitely have a negative impact on the preparation and conduct of the General Registration of Voters.