A record number of 93 independent candidates will participate in the upcoming regional council elections, a significant jump from five who contested the 2015 vote. The Electoral Commission of Namibia’s chief electoral officer Theo Mujoro yesterday said the commission received a total of 493 candidates to contest in the country’s 121 constituencies, of which 93 were independent candidates. He said from the 493, 423 were male candidates, while 70 are female. Political commentator and director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said the idea of independent candidates has become popular following the strong showing by Dr Panduleni Itula last year. “Obviously, the decision of AR to back candidates will also have boosted the number.
Otherwise there seems to be some disgruntled candidates who lost out in their party decision-making processes and then decided to go independent,” Hopwood said. He said whether the independent candidate phenomenon is a flash in the pan or something that will continue to develop in Namibian politics depends on how many of these candidates win seats in next month’s vote. Senior lecturer in the Department of Communication at the Namibia University of Science and Technology Admire Mare said it is clear that candidates are losing faith in party politics, which is “bureaucratic and riddled with factionalism”. “So, candidates can better their constituencies without the excess baggage of party politics.
However, in Africa research points to the supremacy of political parties during elections although ICs are increasingly curving a niche in the crowded political marketplace,” he said. Political analyst Ndumba Kamwanyah has attributed the surge in a number of independent candidates to a number of factors, key among them, the euphoria and excitement generated by the participation and the performance of Angelina Immanuel, Itula and Knowledge Ipinge. “The three have opened a lot of people’s eyes that they can do it alone instead of waiting to be nominated by the party,” he said. Second, he said, it is an indication that a lot of people, especially the youth, are not happy with party politics and structures. According to Kamwanyah, the only way is to do it alone without a party. “This unhappiness is linked to the perception that the current political parties are outdated and miserably failing the young people and the nation at large,” he said.