Friday, November 28, 2014

Namibia: Slow start to elections

Voting started slowly across Namibia this morning as Namibians elect a new president and the National Assembly. Many polling stations opened late, some for as much as an hour and no explanations were given. Polling stations were supposed to open at 07h00.

When Swapo candidate Hage Geingob arrived at the Katutura Community Hall in central Katutura the scanners were down.

In the Agste Laan informal settlement in the west of Windhoek the polling station was not opened by 08h30 and polling officers ignored shouts by frustrated voters. Some voters left the queue in frustration.

In Luderitz, the polling station opened at around 08h00 but the voting process is described as going smoothly. It takes about 10 minutes for the entire voting process.

'Election Watch Namibia', a Facebook page operated by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) posted on Facebook that "the impression from various reports sent to 'Election Watch' is that the process this year is slower than people's experience with paper ballots in the past. And we are voting in one day for the first time this year..."

About 500 people were in line at the DRC school project polling station when the doors opened for the first time. A voter calling himself Likeus was the first to cast his vote there.

He said he has been waiting since 03h00.

Outgoing president Hifikepunye Pohamba cast his vote at Suiderhof just after 08h00.

DTA presidential candidate McHenry Venaani caused a bit of a scene at Baines Shopping Centre in Pioneerspark. He said he wasn't sure that his vote was counted as there was no light going on or off. He said ECN should explain these things clearly.

In Oshakati, voters were asked to remove nail polish before they could vote.

Also, in Oshakati, voters had to wait for the ECN regional coordinator to fix some EVMs after polling officers failed.

In Cimbebasia a scanner was broken, at Martti Ahtisaari school in Katutura and at Delta High School in Olympia the EVMs were not functioning.

At Eros Post Office there was no electricity.

Voting at Arandis' three polling stations were described as peaceful but still slow. Senior citizens were asked to go to the front of the queue.

There was a one hour delay at the Collin Foundation School polling station when a verification scanner broke down.

Arandis mayor Daniel Muhuura tried to arrange a spare scanner with the Arandis constituency officer of the ECN who was at Henties Bay at the time. Henties Bay is about 70 km from Arandis. To avoid complete stagnation till the spare arrived, it was decided to do the verification manually using the voters role.

Polling stations at Khorixas opened on time.

Fillepus Huibeb (70), from Outjo said, "I did not know how to use the EVMs but I was assisted."

Engenesia Haraes (52), said there was no problem using the EVMs as she saw how to use it on TV. Haraes said it was easier than the ballot paper and that she voted in the hope of more development of Khorixas.

Saara /Gawises (86), from Blomhof, which is 25 km from Khorixas, said she was happy with the process and there was no difference between the EVMs and the ballot box system.

/Gawises said she voted to air her problems so that the government can assist them.

Dudu Murorua, vice president of UDF, said the ballot box system was quicker than voting with EVMs but said counting might be quicker with EVMs.

"It is a learning exercise for almost everybody," said Murorua, who voted at Khorixas.

Voting at the Eenhana Community Centre, in Ohangwena Region, started on time.

Young and old all showed up to make sure their voices are heard. For 20-year-old Gerson David, voting is so important since he believes that it is the only time he can decide who to put in power.

Seventy-four-year-old Maria Kavela came to vote because she is grateful for the pension money she receives.

"The only problem I have is the drought relief that we do not receive," she said, adding that she can also breathe a sigh of relief as they do not have to pay school fees an longer.

Several polling stations at Keetmanshoop experienced some technical problems resulting in long queues.

The WK Rover and Suiderlig High School polling station opened almost two hours late due to problems to set the voting machines after pre-poll demonstration.

"When we reset the voting machine, the names of some party candidates did not appear on it," said presiding officer Rosalin Keramen.

Though the Moth Hall poling station opened on time, the voting prowess went slowly due to some technical problems.

"The machine (EVM) is again out of order. We're close to 180 voters and it took almost eight minutes for one person to vote. Now everything again has come to a standstill," said a voter who refused to be named.

//Karas Region governor, Bernadus Swartbooi, who voted at the WK Hall poling station in Tseiblaagte at 08h30 said voting delays were expected.

"Technology has its own challenges," said Swartbooi.

ECN spokesperson, Vikitoria Hango said they received reports that officers did not set up the machines as they were trained to.

She said: "Officers did not clear the electronic voting machines (EVM) after the pre-poll test that was conducted at 06h00."

The Namibian

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