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31 October 2014
   
 
 
Article by: Bradley Dubbelman

1989 Constituent Assembly

Party Votes Seats (72)
South West Africa People's Organisation (Swapo) 57,33% 41
Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) 28,55% 21
United Democratic Front (UDF) 5,65% 4
African Christian National (NPF) 3,53% 3
Federation Convention of Namibia (FCN) 1,56% 1
Namibia National Front (NNF) 0,80% 1

 

Previous National Assembly Results

1994 1999 2004
Party Votes Seats (72) Votes Seats (72) Votes Seats (72)
South West African People's Organisation (Swapo) 73,89% 53 76,15% 55 75,83% 55
Democratic Tunhalle Alliance (DTA) 20,78% 15 9,48% 7 5,14% 4
Congress of Democrats (COD) n/a n/a 9,94% 7 7,27% 5
United Democratic Front (UDF) 2,72% 2 2,93% 2 3.60% 3
Democratic Coalition of Namibia (DCN) 0,83% 1 n/a n/a n/a n/a
Monitor Action Group (MAG) 0,82% 1 0,67% 1 0,85% 1
National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) n/a n/a n/a n/a 4,15% 3
Republican Party (RP) n/a n/a n/a n/a 1,96% 1

 

Presidential election results

1994 No of votes % of votes
Sam Nujoma (Swapo) 370 452 76,34%
Mishake Muyonga (DTA) 114 843 23,66%
1999
Sam Nujoma (Swapo) 414 096 76,82%
Ben Ulenga (COD) 56 541 10,49%
Katuuire Kaura (DTA) 52 752 9,79%
Justus Garoeb (UDF) 15 635 2,90%
2004
Hifekepunye Pohamba (Swapo) 625 605 76,44%
Ben Ulenga (COD) 59 547 7,28%
Katuuire Kaura (DTA) 41 905 5,12%
Kuaima Riruako (NUDO) 34 616 4,23%
Justus Garoeb (UDF) 31 354 3,83%
Henk Mudge (RP) 15 955 1,95%
Kosie Pretorius (MAG) 9 378 1,15%

 

Constituent Assembly

Namibia, once a German colony and then occupied by neighbouring South Africa for a large part of the twentieth century, officially achieved independence on the March 21, 1990. In 1989, after a long and bitter liberation struggle, Namibia voted in, as stipulated under United Nations Resolution 435, a Constituent Assembly tasked with drawing up a new constitution for the country. Despite fears that the process would bring violence and instability after regional struggles, the elections ran smoothly and peacefully.

The main liberation movement, known as the South West Africa People's Organisation (Swapo), won the election with 57,33% of the vote and 41 seats in the Assembly. This figure was lower than initially expected from the forecasted Swapo landslide victory. The party was still, however, able to achieve an outright majority of the vote. The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), an alliance consisting of small ethnic-based political parties led by the white community, came in second place with 28,55% of the vote and 21 seats. The United Democratic Front won 5,65% of the vote and 4 seats.

Swapo, with the majority of seats in the Constituent Assembly, drafted a new constitution based on democratic principles that made provision for multiparty elections the following year in 1990. The draft constitution also created an executive president restricted to serve a maximum of two terms of five years.

National Assembly

On the March 21, 1990, Namibia became independent as the Constituent Assembly became the National Assembly, with Sam Nujoma as the country's first President. Nujoma embarked on a policy of national reconciliation between all groups in Namibian society. Economically, he promoted the free market and encouraged growth in the private sector and advanced foreign investment.

The country's first postindependence presidential and parliamentary election took place in 1994 and saw Swapo increase its majority in the National Assembly to 53 seats with 73,89% of the vote at the expense of the DTA, which only secured 15 seats. Nujoma retained his position as the country's President.

Nujoma used his second term as President to secure himself another ruling term, despite only being constitutionally allowed to run for two. Nujoma argued that he had initially been chosen by the Constituent Assembly, and had only once been elected by popular vote. On these grounds, Nujoma was able to secure a third term as a special case and the constitution remained unchanged.

By the 2004 election, Nujoma handed over Swapo's presidential candidacy to his ally, Hifikepunye Pohamba, who managed to maintain the party's dominance over the National Assembly, gaining 75,83% of the vote and 55 seats. Since coming into power, Pohamba's policies have remained consistent, relative to those of his predecessor. Pohamba has also stressed the importance of regional trade and has been an advocate of regional integration and cooperation through organisations such as the New Partnership for Africa's Development, as well as the Southern African Customs Union. This is a result of Namibia's reliance on its neighbours for trade, specifically South Africa, with over 80% of Namibia's imports originating in the country. Further, many of Namibia's exports are destined for the South Africa market or pass through in transit.

To illustrate the scope of Namibia's reliance on South Africa, the country is part of the Common Monetary Area together with Lesotho, Swaziland and South Africa. This means that the South African rand is legal tender in Namibia, but not vice versa. Consequently, the Namibian currency is heavily tied to the rand and therefore provides little room for an independent monetary policy. One of Pohamba's major challenges has been for the country to become more self-reliant to stimulate local industry, as well as to diversify its trading patterns so as to not be overdependent on South African goods and services.

Electoral System

Namibia is a multiparty democracy with a three-tier governing structure. An executive president rules for a period of five years, being allowed to serve a maximum of two terms. The Namibian constitution has established a bicameral Parliament and provides for general elections every five years. The first tier of the Parliament is that of the National Assembly that consists of 72 seats where members are elected on a party list system with proportional representation. The second tier is that of the National Council consisting of 26 seats with members elected from within popularly elected Regional Councils elected on a six-year basis.

The governing structure in Namibia is subject to checks and balances by the country's judicial structure consisting of the Supreme Court, the High Court and the lower courts.

Swapo and Opposition Politics

Recent times have seen exciting development in Namibian politics with the emergence of a breakaway party, known as the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), the political stage in Namibia has taken on a competitive edge. Emerging from Swapo itself, the RDP is a breakaway faction formed in 2007 under former Swapo members Hidipo Hamutenya (commonly known as "HH") and Jesaya Nyamu.

The newly formed party is predicted by analysts to replace the Congress of Democrats (COD) as the official opposition. Swapo, meanwhile, has been accused of numerous corruption scandals in recent times. A factor that is predicted to have an impact on the new generation of voters known as the "born-frees", born after the liberation struggle. With Transparency International labelling Namibia among the world's most corrupt countries, younger voters are reportedly estranged from the ruling party. This is compounded by the staggering unemployment rate of the youth, estimated at 60%. This is a factor that the RDP has picked up on and has subsequently focused it's door-to-door campaign on younger urbanised voters.

The newly formed party is unlikely to win the election. A future challenge to Swapo's monopoly on power lies with the RDP. In addition, HH was considered one of the intellectuals within Swapo and is seen as a clever strategist. He is well respected and often portrayed as the future of opposition politics in the country.

Outlook and Challenges

Swapo's position as the ruling party is consolidated and it seems unlikely, despite the emergence of the RDP, that its position will be threatened. Although democracy is enshrined in the constitution and has taken root within Namibian society, multiparty democracy, up to this point, has been weak with little credible political opposition to Swapo. Such dominance can often result in constitutional manipulation and the abuse of power. Maintaining a credible democracy therefore remains a challenge for the country. It remains to be seen whether the emergence of the RDP results in a situation where Swapo begins to manipulate laws and policies for its political advantage.

With the country's exports centred on commodities, Namibia has felt the pinch of the global economic downturn. With low commodity prices and volumes denting export earnings, combined with a decrease in international trade, Namibia's economy is officially in recession. The country's growing tourism industry has also taken a knock with fewer people visiting the West African State. One of the government's major challenges will be to pull the country out of recession and stimulate economic growth through the various facets of trade and tourism, among others.

Also related to trade, one of the country's major concerns is grounded in its reliance on the South African market and its undiversified trading partners. The Namibian government has identified the deep-water Walvis Bay port as key to expanding its commercial appeal to investors. Seen as one of the best-developed ports on the African West Coast, the government promotes the bay as the commercial gateway to the Southern African region. The ruling establishment has recognised the need to upgrade the ageing rail and road networks feeding the port. Improving the access to the port is therefore a major challenge to the country.

With an estimated 30% and 40% of the population unemployed, job creation is therefore one of the key issues facing government. The rhetoric of the high unemployment rate is a crucial factor in many opposition parties' election campaigns.

Further, the issue of land reform has been emphasised by the Swapo-led government. With most of the country's land in the hands of white commercial farmers, pressure from indigenous ethnic groups has pushed government to consider land reform a priority. With the government adopting a "willing buyer, willing seller" stance, pressure may arise from various local and indigenous factions. Managing this social pressure and maintaining commercial viability of land is therefore a further challenge facing the incoming regime.

Conclusion

With the emergence of the RDP, Swapo faces a new form of opposition. A number of corruption charges and a politicised youth may place the ruling party's two-thirds majority in danger. Whatever the outcome of the elections, there are major issues facing the incoming regime, such as: pulling the economy out of recession, creating employment and improving the country's infrastructure. These challenges will require sound governance based on democratic principles.


Main Sources

African Elections Database - Elections in Namibia (November 16, 2009).
African Elections Project - Namibia Elections 2009: Ballot printing going well (November 2, 2009).
AllAfrica - Namibia: Another Recession Warning for Country (November 20, 2009).
AllAfrica - Namibia: Election Prospects of Political Parties (March 13, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: 1994 Election National Assembly results (November 17, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: 1989 Constituent Assembly Election results (November 17, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: 1994 Election Presidential results (November 17, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: Independence Elections in 1989 (November 17, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: 1999 Election Presidential results (November 17, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: 1999 Election National Assembly results (November 17, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: 2004 National Assembly results (November 17, 2009).
EISA - Namibia: 2004 Presidential Results (November 17, 2009).
ISS - Namibia - Political (November 16, 2009).
Mail & Guardian - Wake-up call for Swapo (November 20, 2009).
US Department of State - Background Note: Namibia (November 20, 2009).

 

 

Edited by: Amy Witherden
 
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