• April 9th, 2020

Low turnout mars Khomasdal by-election

WINDHOEK - A low voter turnout marred the Khomasdal constituency by-election in Windhoek yesterday. However, officials were not surprised by the low turnout. 

Four candidates contested the elections, including Swapo’s Samuel Angolo, Reggie Diergaardt of the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM), Mara Baumgartner of the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) and Bartholomeus Tjiunomuinjo Kauahuma of Swanu. 

The Khomasdal constituency by-election was necessitated by the resignation of Margaret Mensah-Williams, who is set to become a member of the National Assembly in March. Election officials told New Era they opened the polling stations on time and did not experience any hiccups. 

However, they also shared the same sentiments that voter turnout was very low. The election officials attributed the low voter turnout to the fact the day was not declared a public holiday as is the case with the Presidential and National Assembly election day. The presiding officer at Michelle McLean Primary School, Rouchell Isaacks, said they opened on time without any challenges. “We started on time and so far, [08h30] we have about 12 to 13 voters. We didn’t experience any hiccups. The EVMs are working smoothly,” she said. Meanwhile, Pendaa Tjonga, who is the presiding officer at a polling station in Otjomuise, said they experienced a problem, as the voting machine’s unit register button was not open. “We called the returning officer to come. When she came, she informed the head office who sent the IT technician and a new seal was put on, while we started with the voting process,” he said. Polling stations at the Chairman Mao Zedong High School, Otjomuise clinic and Augustineum High School also experienced a low voter turnout, although the voting machines were functioning well. The busiest fixed polling station was Mannadu centre in Otjomuise’s informal settlement. The presiding officer, Rukoro Mbeumuna, said the voting process went smoothly.

Speaking to New Era yesterday, political commentator Graham Hopwood said regional council by-elections usually have low turnouts. “The timing of these elections is especially bad for the voter as some people are still returning to their homes after the holiday and if they are back they are busy with work or getting their children into schools,” he said. 

“Also, I think voters have a sense that these elections are not as important as national ones since regional councils do not have so many powers or responsibilities. This is especially the case in urban areas where local authority councils take many of the key decisions regarding planning and service delivery. The decentralisation of powers and responsibilities to sub-national bodies like regional councils has not gone very far despite it being an official policy of government.” Hopwood also believes an individual councillor does not have much power or influence to enable them to deliver electoral promises. “They can use their positions to lobby for such improvements but it is not the same as having executive decision making power. Voters recognise that these elections are not very important in the power equation,” he said.

Albertina Nakale
2020-01-16 07:41:52 | 2 months ago

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