By Emilia Mbishi
Windhoek, 28 Nov. – The independence of the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN), political boundaries and non-compliance to the Code of Conduct by some political parties are some of the major challenges hampering the the commission in its activities.
This came out when the ECN appeared before the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs to share information on the commission’s activities, successes and challenges.
According to the ECN chief electoral and referenda officer, Theo Mujoro, the commission is at an advanced stage to finalise proposed amendments to the Electoral Act to enable the operationalization of its independence in accordance with Article 94B of the Constitution with final consultations expected to be completed at the end of this month.
He said even though Article 94 B of the constitution clearly provides for the Commission’s institutional independence, paradoxically, the Public Service Act considers the institution as a government agency, which needs to be corrected.
Mujoro also said that ECN relies heavily on government policies and frameworks for its administration as it is currently regarded as an agency of the government.
“The classification as a government agency puts the ECN at the level of other state institutions and that does not align well with the provision of the Constitution.
“Running elections is a different process altogether as we have to follow certain time frames that might not run concurrently with those of government systems. In terms of recruitment of staff, we are still subjected to the same processes and procedures. Independence implies having unhindered access to human and material resources and having access to sufficient funds to execute the electoral mandate,” said Mujoro.
Confusion with regards to political boundaries of constituencies also came under the spotlight as it became apparent that some voters often end up casting mistaken votes in constituencies they do not belong to and thus presenting risks of rejected votes and potential election disputes.
According to Mujoro, as a result of this, the ECN has partnered other stakeholders to raise awareness including plans to consult with the Delimitation Commission responsible for demarcating boundaries.
“We have incidences where a voter resides in a particular constituency adjacent to another but because the constituency office of that particular voter is located far away than the neighboring constituency, such a voter then registers in a wrong constituency due to the distance.
“This creates problems for us and we have increased our voter’s education campaigns to address this particular challenge,” said Mujoro.
Lack of compliance by political parties and associations to sections 139, 140, 141 and 158 on the submission of audited financial statements has also continued unabated, despite numerous reminders and workshops aimed at reiterating the importance of compliance, Mujoro revealed adding that the Commission was contemplating instituting legal action as a last resort.
Following queries from the Standing Committee on Electronic Voter Machines, Mujoro said due to the 2020 Supreme Court ruling that compelled the ECN to use the EVMs only if they are accompanied by the Voter Verifiable Paper Trail (VVPA) technology, the Commission has since suspended their use and has instead resorted to the manual voting system.
He said the current EVMs in the Commission’s possession were not compatible with the available VVPA technology. He however, hailed electronic voting stating that during the previous elections in Namibia, EVMs proved to be efficient and cost effective even though there were minor challenges.
“Speed, accuracy of voting and counting process, elimination of spoilt or rejected ballots and reduction to the cost of using paper are some of the advantages that have been identified,” he said.