Barely a week before Namibians head to the polls for the National Assembly and presidential elections, opposition parties are still expressing serious concerns that the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs) will hamper free and fair elections.
At a meeting yesterday between political parties and the Council of Churches in Namibia (CCN), aimed at emphasising the need for peaceful campaigning and elections, the opposition once again raised their concern about the use of EVMs without any paper trail.
Present at the meeting were the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP), the DTA, the Christian Democratic Voice Party, the Republican Party (RP) and the Congress of Democrats (CoD). Although all parties were invited there was no representative from the ruling party.
RDP President Hidipo Hamutenya said he is extremely worried about the insistence of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) and Swapo to use the EVMs in the upcoming elections.
“It is truly disturbing. They feel that it is in their favour and therefore they will use it,” he said.
Hamutenya said this was contrary to free and fair elections.
“We cannot have free and fair elections if participants in the elections cannot verify the outcome of their participation,” said Hamutenya.
He said although the RDP had made it clear the voting process should be made transparent, and had communicated that to the ECN and Swapo, they were still insisting on using the machines. “This is a dangerous process,” said Hamutenya.
According to him all opposition parties have protested and said that voting cannot go ahead without a paper trail.
“But they do what they want and go ahead with the elections. Why has the machines become so critical? It was only introduced now and we have completed other elections without it.”
Hamutenya said the insistence on using EVMs is a real problem and can have dangerous consequences. “They must stop insisting to use the machines.”
Perly Tjahuha of Nudo also expressed concern over the EVMs and said it seems that the elections will not be free and fair. “This meeting will not help, it is too late now,” he said.
Immanuel !Aochamub of the DTA voiced his concern over the EVMs, intimidation and violence during campaigning.
He said there are leaders of political parties who are calling other political representatives “imperialists and dogs” during the election campaign and they are not running effective campaigns but instigating their supporters.
He said during the by-elections that took place last week the pinch of using the EVMs could be felt.
According to him there was only one machine at some polling stations while others had two.
“The use of this machine will not be effective; it cannot be free and fair,” said !Aochamub.
RDP Youth League Secretary-General Monica Nambelela said Namibians are being forced to vote without a paper trail.
She expressed disappointment that the churches have not spoken up about this issue.
“I am utterly disappointed that the churches are quiet. Churches were very active during the liberation struggle, but 24 years later we are questioning where the morality of the church has gone.”
She said the use of these machines will result in an uprising because Namibia is in a very fragile state and the youth are frustrated, “as everything is going to the golden children.”
A representative of the CoD said the EVMs that do not have a paper trail are one of the biggest concerns for the upcoming elections.
“We are going to vote and will it be fair? The churches need to stand up.”
She added that although Namibia is peaceful there is a lot of intimidation by parties.
“Church leaders are hearing about these issues, but they are not standing up for us. If your voices are quiet they are not involved.”
The President of the Christian Voice Party, Gotthardt Kandume, criticised Swapo for not being present at the meeting. “Swapo is not even here. The people who are fighting us are not here.”
The Namibian Sun