The Electoral Commission of Namibia yesterday backtracked on an announcement that only voters registered at Namibia's foreign missions would be allowed to cast their votes at polling stations outside the country on Friday next week.
In a media statement issued yesterday, ECN chairperson Notemba Tjipueja denied that the ECN had taken a decision to exclude any registered voters outside Namibia from exercising their right to vote at the country's foreign missions.
“It is, and always was, the Commission's point of view that all registered voters in possession of a valid voters' registration card be allowed to vote in terms of Section 98 of the Electoral Act,” Tjipueja stated.
She referred to a section of the Electoral Act which states that if a voter in a Presidential or National Assembly election is unable to vote at a polling station in the constituency in which the voter is registered, the presiding officer of any other polling station - whether in or outside Namibia - must permit the voter to cast a tendered vote at that polling station.
Tjipueja added that if voters who registered at a registration point inside Namibia find themselves abroad on 14 November (Friday next week) and will still be abroad on 28 November, when the national elections are taking place, they will be allowed to vote at designated polling stations abroad next Friday.
If voters who registered at designated foreign missions of Namibia are unable to vote at those missions next week Friday, but find themselves in Namibia on 28 November, they will be allowed to vote on election day, Tjipueja also stated.
The ECN's announcement was made a day after a Namibian studying law at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom, Ndjodi Ndeunyema, lodged an urgent application against the ECN and government with the Electoral Court in an attempt to ensure that he would able to cast his vote at Namibia's high commission in London next week.
Ndeunyema was asking the court to review and set aside the ECN's decision at the end of October to restrict the casting of votes at Namibia's foreign missions during the upcoming Presidential and National Assembly elections only to voters who registered at the foreign missions, thus excluding other Namibians who are outside the country and who have not registered at Namibia's foreign missions from the elections.
Ndeunyema stated in an affidavit filed with the court that he learned through the website of the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation on 31 October that the ECN decided that people who registered as voters inside Namibia would not be able to cast their votes at polling stations outside the country on 14 November.
The information on the NBC website was based on a report that was broadcast in a television news bulletin. In that report, a senior ECN official stated that only people who registered as voters outside Namibia would be allowed to vote at Namibia's foreign missions.
He also stated that it would be a matter of “tough luck” for voters who would not be able to cast their votes as a result of the decision to restrict voting at foreign missions to voters registered at those missions. The restriction was as a result of concerns that the ink with which voters' fingers would be marked when they cast their votes could disappear in the time between 14 and 28 November, allowing people to double vote.
Tjipueja stated yesterday: “The ECN will put all logistical arrangements in place to ensure that no voter will be able to vote more than once and would urge all registered voters to exercise their democratic right to vote and to participate meaningfully in the democratic process.”
Ndeunyema's urgent application has been withdrawn as a result of the undertaking by the ECN, Legal Assistance Centre lawyer Corinna van Wyk, who represented Ndeunyema with Norman Tjombe, informed The Namibian.