MP’s protest against long queues during elections

Martin Endjala

Members of Parliament have vented their frustrations about the long queues observed during Namibia’s voting and registration process.

MPs stated that it is time-wasting and an indication that Namibia is far behind compared to Zambia, Angola and South Arica when it comes to digitalised voting and registration.

Parliamentarians urged the Electoral Commission of Namibia to improve its current status by intensifying the unpleasant scenarios observed in the country. They labelled the current process as unconducive and that it is time that the ECN move away from old practices.

“I remember when I visited the Angola elections last year, I was amazed to see how digitalized they are, the voting process took about one or two minutes per person. They had officials guiding the voters and names have already been arranged on the system upon scanning voter cards, where one goes straight to the booth and do your voting so easily, but here in Namibia it takes at least ten minutes for one to vote,” said the Defence and Veteran Minister Frans Kapofi during a parliamentary session in support of the Commission’s budget allocation.

Kapofi said that the long queues must become a thing of the past. He urged the ECN to improve its standards, adding that the confirmed usage of ballot papers for the 2024 Presidential Elections does not paint a good picture for the commission in terms of digitalisation.

He called on the ECN to ensure that it finds a lasting solution to conduct the voting and registration processes in a very fast and conducive manner, to reduce long queues.

The Popular Democratic Movement’s Chief Whip, Elma Dienda, questioned why the registration process for voter cards is not conducted on a continuous basis. She argued that registration of voters only happens when there are elections pending.

This she said, prolongs the process unnecessarily because all eligible voters first have to go for registration and voter cards, which puts strains on the commission and officials in trying to reach its deadlines before elections take place.

She was of the opinion that the ECN must start continuous voter registration in all 14 regions to afford every young person who just turned 18 to be registered.

In addition to these arguments, Swapo’s former Chairperson of the standing committee on constitutional and legal affairs, Kletus Karondo while delivering the Ndonga Linena constituency by-elections findings said that one of the recommendations the committee highlighted was to make provision for any Namibian to register for a voter’s card wherever they might be residing.

This is to compensate for the fact that the interchange of work from one constituency to another has been observed. Hence, the strict registration of only constituency residents needs to be amended to accommodate those who are already registered in a different constituency and are now residing in a new constituency.

Another Member of Parliament, Elifas Dingara stressed that the counting of results also takes too long, and wants the process to be cut to one day.

“It creates room for fatigue which then leads to mistakes and also opens doors to possible corrupting of results if the results are not counted in a timely fashion,” he said.

In comparison with what other countries are doing in terms of the announcement and counting of results, and seeing a small population like Namibia struggling to do the same is unacceptable,” Dingara stated.

“If other countries have demonstrated that what they are doing is working, then we must just copy their processes. I have a problem with MPs of this house, we all agree that the commission is in need of serious improvement, but we never ask why is it like that,” Dingara argued.

In response to some of the concerns raised by the National Assembly, Speaker Peter Katjavivi said that when the commission conducts registration, all eligible voters are accorded the right to register for all elections.

Katjavivi also clarified concerns of foreign nationals that are allowed to vote in Namibia, given that in the past it only required two witnesses and a sworn declaration if the voter did not have national identification documents.

The Speaker emphasized that this process is no longer applicable and all voters are now required to have Namibian National identities before allowing to cast their ballot.

In October 2022, the ECN announced that it has put on hold the recommended voter registrations countrywide on an annual basis as recommended by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, due to a lack of funds and training for the commission staff, as well as the current ongoing discussions on the matter.

The ECN said that it is cognizant of the tabled and agreed-upon recommendations made by Parliament, to create a platform of continuous registrations in all regions, given the movements of many residents from their constituencies because of new careers or residential changes.

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