Political analyst Hoze Riruako believes the newly established Independent Patriot for Change (IPC) if approved by the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) will erode the support base of established parties in the country.
ECN chief electoral and referenda officer Theo Mujoro confirmed to New Era this week that Dr Panduleni Itula who contested in last year’s presidential election as an independent candidate, has applied to the electoral body to register his own political party, possibly with his eyes set on the upcoming regional and local authority elections set for the end of the year. Mujoro said his office also received applications for the Walvis Bay and Windhoek Affirmative Repositioning (AR), Rehoboth Independent Town Management Association, the Omaruru Hakahana Community Development Association as well as the Rundu Urban Community Association.
Namibians are heading to the polls in November to elect new regional council and local authority leaders.
ECN confirmed it will use the manual ballot papers in the upcoming regional council and local authority elections, saying that it would not be in a position to afford voter-verifiable paper audit trail (VVPAT) devices to allow for electronic voting. According to the electoral body, the situation is exacerbated by the global Covid-19 pandemic.
“Opposition parties are of such a nature that they have not been able to make a dent in the politics of Namibia and whenever a new party comes on board, it gives them an idea that perhaps they can join this party and together they can change things or they can unseat Swapo, that has always been the trend. If you go back, this happened with CoD and RDP when they were formed."
“When the ruling party went to congress in 2014, it was divided into two groups, the Team Swapo and Team Harambee – Team Swapo turned out to have supported Itula during the last elections, this means the ruling party will be more polarised by the Itula phenomenon,” he said.
He is of further opinion this year’s regional council and local authority elections will be polarised also by the emerging of new players such as the Rundu Urban Community Association.
“The Kavango having the second highest population and a formation that has nothing to do with the already established parties will further erode the support base of political parties that have a support base there, which one of them is Swapo,” he said.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Executive Director, Graham Hopwood, said the regional and local authority elections look like they will be more interesting and competitive than previous polls. “But we will have to wait to see which parties and groups are registered by the ECN. It’s too early to say if Dr Itula’s impetus from last November will continue once he has launched his political party,” he said. He said while more parties and candidates contesting at the local authority level could challenge Swapo’s control of some councils, the number and variety of parties and candidates could have the effect of splitting the opposition vote in the regional elections.
“Parties and candidates should bear in mind that we use different electoral systems. PR at the local authority level gives a chance to small parties and organisations to obtain seats - but the winner-takes-all format in the regional elections may limit the impact on Swapo if the opposition vote is divided among several parties and candidates,” he advised.