Friday, November 7, 2014

Namibia: UK student sues electoral body over foreign voting

A Namibian student at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom is suing the Electoral Commission of Namibia over its decision to allow only voters registered at Namibia's foreign missions to cast their votes in the 2014 national elections at diplomatic missions outside the country.

Law graduate Ndjodi Ndeunyema lodged an urgent application against the ECN and Namibia's government with the Electoral Court yesterday. He is 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 mission 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 have not registered at Namibia's foreign missions from the elections.

Ndeunyema's urgent application is due to be heard in the Electoral Court, which the new Electoral Act established as a division of the High Court, on Friday.

In an affidavit filed with the court Ndeunyema is stating that he registered as a voter for the upcoming presidential and National Assembly elections on 28 November at a voter registration point at the University of Namibia in Windhoek at the end of January this year.

Voters who are outside Namibia are scheduled to cast their votes at the country's foreign missions on 14 November, which is on Friday next week.

After his registration as a voter, Ndeunyema states in his affidavit, he was awarded a scholarship to study towards a master's degree in law at the University of Oxford, where his studies commenced at the end of September.

He says he was planning to vote at the Namibian High Commission in London, but was shocked when he learned at the end of October that the ECN had decided that people who registered as voters in Namibia would not be able to cast their votes at polling stations outside the country on 14 November.

The ECN's decision to restrict voting at the country's foreign missions affects not only himself, but also many other Namibians who are currently outside the country, Ndeunyema says.

The ECN's decision will violate his constitutional right to vote and is also in violation of a section of the Electoral Act which clearly states that presiding officers at polling stations, whether in or outside Namibia, must permit voters not registered in the constituency where a polling station is situated to cast a tendered vote at the polling station, Ndeunyema also says in his affidavit.

He says it would cost him the equivalent of about N$265 to travel from Oxford to London to vote next Friday. In contrast, it would cost about N$22 500 if he had to travel by air from the UK to Namibia and back in order to cast his vote inside Namibia.

If the ECN is worried about the possibility that people who vote at foreign missions on 14 November could again try to vote in Namibia on 28 November, a simple solution would be to retain voters' registration cards at the foreign missions until two weeks after the election, he is suggesting.

Ndeunyema is being represented by Legal Assistance Centre lawyer Corinna van Wyk and Norman Tjombe.

The Namibian

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