The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) says political boundaries and non-compliance by some political parties to Code of Conduct, are some of its major challenges.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs has been told. ECN Chief Electoral and Referenda Officer, Theo Mujoro, told the MPs the Commission is at an advanced stage to finalise proposed amendments to the Electoral Act. This is enable the operationalization of its independence in accordance with Article 94B of the Constitution with final consultations expected to be completed at the end of this month.
“The final round of consultations with electoral stakeholders is envisaged for end of November 2022 after which the Bill will be presented to the Ministry of Urban and Rural Development for onward processing”, Mujoro confirms. Lack of compliances by political parties and associations with sections 139, 140, 141 and 158 on the submission of audited financial statements has continued. Despite numerous reminders and workshops aimed at reiterating the importance of compliance, Mujoro states adding that the Commission is contemplating instituting legal action as a last resort.
However, following queries from the Committee on Electronic Voter Machines, Mujoro further notes that due to the 2020 Supreme Court ruling that compelled the ECN to use the EVMs only if they are accompanied by the Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPA) technology, the Commission has since suspended their use and has instead resorted to the manual voting system.
Moreover, the classification as a government agency, Mujoro says, puts the ECN at the level of other state institutions, which does not align well with the provision of the constitution. “Running elections is a different process all together as we have to follow certain time frames that might not run concurrently with the time frames of government systems”, opines Mujoro. In terms of recruitment of staff, the ECN is still subjected to the same processes and procedures. According to the ECN operative, the term independence, implies having unhindered access to human and material resources and having access to sufficient funds to execute the electoral mandate. With regard to political boundaries of constituencies, which also came under the spotlight, it is said that some voters often end up casting mistaken votes in constituencies that they do not belong. Thus presenting risks of rejected votes and potential election disputes. As a result Mujoro says the ECN has partnered with other stakeholders to raise awarene
ss, including plans to consult with the Delimitation Commission responsible for boundaries.
He further noted that even though Article 94 B of the constitution clearly provides for the Commission’s institutional independence, paradoxically, the Public Service Act considers the institution as a government agency, an anomaly he says needs correction.
Additionally the Commissioner said that ECN relies heavily on government policies and frameworks for its administration as it is currently regarded as an agency of government.
As a result, the status quo has adversely affected the Commission due to lack of budgetary control and was therefore counterproductive given the immense responsibility of managing elections.