Monday, December 1, 2014

Namibia: AU declares elections free and fair

The African Union (AU) election observation mission to Namibia said the elections on Friday expressed the will of Namibian voters.

“The elections were conducted in compliance with national laws of the country and in line with its international obligations. They were conducted in a manner that allowed Namibians to express their will freely and in a credible and transparent manner,” said Fatuma Ndangiza, the head of the 45-person AU election observation mission delegated to observe the elections.

Ndangiza also applauded Namibia for taking “an innovative and bold step” in adopting the use of the electronic voting machines (EVMs).

Namibia has made history by becoming the first African country to use EVMs.

Ndangiza yesterday read a preliminary statement on the mission’s observation on this year’s elections.

Ndangiza also took note of challenges that a national rollout of the usage of EVMs may entail.

Ndangiza on behalf of the mission noted the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) should in future elections ensure the training of staff on the use of technology in elections is continuous.

This, she said, would “improve their ability to operate the equipment.”

She added that in 15 percent of the observed polling stations visited by the AU election observation mission, voting stopped at least once because of technical issues with the use of the voter verification of the EVM system.

“These issues delayed counting in some stations by up to one hour, but is some cases were resolved quickly. In all cases, normal voting resumed after the issue was resolved,” she said.

Furthermore, Ndangiza said the ECN should consider simplifying polling station procedures, namely the voter identification process and recording of a voter’s presence to ensure all procedures be completed within the stipulated time frame for voting.

“Consider limiting the number of voters per polling station to reduce voters’ waiting times and overcrowding of some polling stations,” Ndangiza said.

Ndangiza noted the closing and counting process was observed at 13 voting stations and nine regions and 92 percent of observed polling stations closed late after 21h00.

“Some polling stations only completed the counting process in the morning of 29 November. The main reason for late closing was the long queues of voters still waiting to cast their ballot at closing time. All voters in the queue by closing time were allowed to vote,” Ndangiza noted.

She also advised that efficient measures be developed to improve the management of mobile polling stations to make them more effective.

“Consider including security personnel for advance voting to free some polling stations for regular voters and reduce crowding on election day,” she said.

She further encouraged the Namibian Government to ratify the African Charter on democracy and elections to further strengthen and entrench democratic governance in the country in line with international obligations.

Ndangiza also advised the country to amend its electoral law to regulate sources of party funding and to provide mandatory ceilings on campaign expenditure to ensure fair access to resources amongst all contesting political parties.

New Era

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