Occasional Paper Series

Namibia Elections and Conflict Management

In November 2004, Namibia…

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In November 2004, Namibia conducted its third generation of elections at the presidential, parliamentary and regional levels, since it became independent from apartheid South Africa in 1990. After fourteen years of independence, Namibia has established tolerance for opposition politics. The South West African People’s Organisation (SWAPO) led by President Sam Nujoma remains the dominant party, although there exist political tensions between SWAPO and the main opposition party, Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA). The overwhelming victory of the ruling party in the presidential and parliamentary elections, amidst calls by opposition parties for a recount of votes cast, marked the end of Sam Nujoma’s 14 years Presidency since independence. Mr Hifikepunye Pohamba, the former Minster of Land Affairs and Resettlement, succeeded President Sam Nujoma following his inauguration on March 21, 2005.

Even though Namibia might not currently show any signs of open conflict, the symptoms are prevalent. In the run-up to the presidential and parliamentary elections, there was a political contestation on the verification of the voters’ roll four days prior to the elections. By law political parties ought to receive the voters’ roll 21 days before the election date, but political parties complained that such an act opens the possibility for electoral fraud. There were further allegations of political bias on the part of the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) by affording the ruling SWAPO party a disproportionate amount of television time in contrast to other political parties. Opposition parties thus threatened to boycott the elections and took legal actions against NBC to compel equal coverage of all political parties in an attempt to level the playing field.

Although the Namibian elections received sparse reports of election-related violence, there are contributing factors adversely affecting the consolidation of democracy in Namibia. These include the ever-escalating HIV infection rate, unemployment, political intimidation, imposition of candidates on party lists, harassment of media personnel and journalists, allegations of persistent media bias in favour of the ruling party, and the land reform process. This paper intends to explore election-related conflicts in Namibia and the ongoing debate for electoral reform.