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Electronic Voting Comes to Namibia

NEW YORK, Dec 1 2014 (IPS) - (GIN) – Presidential polls in Namibia have incumbent prime minister Hage Geigob of the ruling SWAPO party leading with 84 percent of the roughly 10 percent of votes officially released so far but the new electronic polling gizmos are leaving some Namibians skeptical.

Some 1.2 million people are expected to cast their votes electronically in the country’s fifth election since independence. It will be the first use of electronic voting machines (EVMs) on the African continent.

Voters will select presidential and parliamentary candidates directly on the EVMs – slabs of green and white plastic with the names and images of candidates and their party affiliation – that make a loud beep after each vote.

The voting modules will not be connected externally to any sources to prevent tampering, and the commission hopes electronic voting will reduce lines and speed up counting.

But according to local media reports, results have been trickling in at a snail’s pace at the election centre in the capital Windhoek, worrying the ruling party.

“The Swapo Party has become aware of many voters who were turned away from polling stations across the country while expecting to cast their votes,” Swapo information secretary Helmut Angula said in a statement.

“This is a worrying and disturbing situation. This could also affect the credibility of the elections.

“Swapo therefore demands that the electoral commission explain this situation and also assure the nation that this will not have a negative impact on the entire elections.”

Problems with hand held scanners verifying voter cards and fingerprints of voters caused huge delays and long lines at polls seen deep into the night on Friday, South Africa’s News24 reported.

The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) president McHenry Venaani, 37, and Hidipo Hamutenya, 75, of Rally for Democracy (RDP) and Progress are competing for second and third positions respectively.

Some 3,400 India-made EVMs were purchased at a cost of Namibian $10 million ($948,000) from Bharat Electronic Limited (BEL) of Bangalore.

Other African countries like Ghana, South Sudan, Nigeria and Kenya have shown interest in the purchase of the EVMs, but “everything will depend on the success of these machines in the Namibian presidential polls,” said K.N. Bhar, secretary, Election Commission.

South African observers have already called the polls “free and fair” despite a litany of problems such as delays in the opening of some polling stations due to election officials “lack of clarity” on use of the new devices, operator errors, and consistent breakdown of the voter verification devices in some cases, noted International Relations Minister Maite Emily Nkoana-Mashabane, who heads the region’s observer mission.

She was interrupted by heckling from the Namibia Economic Freedom Fighters (NEFF) party, formerly the Swapo youth wing, who contradicted her “free and fair” judgment.

Youth wing spokesman Job Amupanda was suspended from Swapo after he moved on to a vacant lot in one of Windhoek’s upscale suburbs as a protest over the allocation of plots to well-off individuals at discounted prices by the Windhoek city council.

Citing “affirmative land repositioning”, he also mobilized large numbers of landless people to apply to the council for plots.

Last week, hundreds of people gathered at the council’s offices to submit 14,000 applications for land. The municipality was given a July 2015 deadline to respond.

Meanwhile, there were few believers in the democratic voting process on the News24 comments section. They ranged from “All elections in Africa are corrupt” to “You should see how George Bush won!”

 
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