Voter apathy strikes elections again

Andrew Kathindi

Voter apathy continues to mire the local authority and regional elections after it has emerged that less than half of registered voters showed up for the past elections.

This comes after the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) earlier this month announced that over 1.4 million Namibians had registered to vote.

In Windhoek, the local authority with the highest number of registered voters was especially hard hit. Out of 150,172 eligible voters, only 60,339 cast their votes. And from this number, 561 votes were rejected.

In Rundu, the local authority with the second highest number of registered voters, 25,962 – only 6,032 cast their votes, with 5,763 being deemed as valid.

Political analyst and Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Director Graham Hopwood told Windhoek Observer that political parties may need to do more in fielding younger candidates.

“It is still worrying that half the registered voters do not turn up. We can see from the Windhoek West result that just three votes can make a difference. It’s difficult to gauge the level of youth turnout. But in general the parties can do much more by choosing younger candidates and utilizing social media to communicate their messages,” he said.

This comes as Swapo party’s Windhoek West Constituency candidate Emma Muteka managed to edge out her opponent by three votes, getting 3,250 votes over Independent Patriots for Change’s Visagie Jacobus who received 3,247 votes. Only 10,155 voted in Windhoek West Constituency, however 33,556 voters were eligible to vote in that constituency.

Unam Lecturer and Political Analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah was however skeptical about whether the low turn-out due to voter apathy or a silent protest.

“For the low turnout, we know for the historically regional and local elections usually tend to score a very low turn-out. Analysts for the most part have attributed that to voter apathy, but I think now, some of us don’t think this really has to do with voter apathy.”

He added, “Because voter apathy cannot alone explain why some voters are not going to vote at the actual elections. It has to do with people who have lost hope. I have been voting and voting and nothing has happened; why should I again go and stand in line for the whole day in the sun and nothing comes out.”

He also said he does not believe the day of voting coming on a Wednesday in the middle of the week has made it hard for voters to vote as they could make arrangements such as putting in leave for those that need to travel.

“As much as we say it’s voter apathy that can also be a protest. Even in Kavango West where Swapo scooped, but when you look at the turnout, it’s quite low. Why did those people not go? Is it really just voter apathy, or is it people protesting? We have seen this in Ohangwena region. In Katima Mulilo I believe there was a group that publicly said they are not going to vote because they are tired, nothing has happened.”

This comes as in the 2015 regional and Local Authority elections, 412,720 people were registered to vote countrywide, however out of that number only 164,201 ended up casting their votes in those elections.

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