The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has started the process that would make the institution fully independent.
ECN’s outgoing chairperson Notemba Tjipueja said there is a need to delink the institution from various government offices, ministries and agencies.
“The present reality is that the independence of the Electoral Commission espoused in the Namibian constitution and reinforced in the Electoral Act, is not given practical effect and meaning, looking at the current institutional arrangements and the working relationship between ECN and other state institutions,” explained Tjipueja in a statement.
She said the institution has undertaken an exercise to ensure institutional, administrative and financial independence is achieved in both the Namibian constitution and Electoral Act.
She emphasised statutory independence should not only be viewed theoretically but should be operationalised in all spheres of ECN’s operations.
Thus, ECN has sought the assistance of the International Institution for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) to conduct a study that would assist the institution to gain its full independence while maintaining a cordial relationship with other governmental entities.
The manner in which electoral management bodies can operate independently of political pressures and external interference is an important driver of public perception of electoral integrity, she said.
“ECN’s ability to work independently, free of political constraints and external influence, is a key factor in public impression of electoral integrity, thus the emphasis on the importance of the independence of the operationalisation of the commission,” noted Tjipueja.
The only way the initiative will succeed, according to Tjipueja is if relevant State institutions, including the President, understand and cooperate with it.
Earlier this month, Tjipueja and her team met with President Hage Geingob. During that meeting, Tjipueja gave recommendations on how to strengthen the operation of the ECN and further ensure its independence.
In response, the head of state indicated that ECN could never really be fully independent due to overlapping government processes that ensure the institution’s operations. But it does not mean government would interfere in the operations of ECN.