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Home / Opinion - Party-list system vis-à-vis recycled politicians

Opinion - Party-list system vis-à-vis recycled politicians

2021-09-24  Prof Makala Lilemba

Opinion - Party-list system vis-à-vis recycled politicians

The party list system simply entails picking members of parliament as per number of seats a particular political party scooped in an election. Each political party is required to submit a list of its members picked at an electoral college. 

Although many politicians would argue that the members at these colleges or conferences represent the wishes and will of all party members, the reality is that few representatives have a stake in decisions.  

For 31 years, the Namibian political elite from the ruling and the opposition cabals have embraced and entertained the party list system as their way to parliament. 

All political parties seem to be comfortable with the system despite its shortcomings almost brushing shoulders with one partyism. 

Few leaders of the political parties actually made decisions for the majority of the people of Namibia without much of their needed input. 

How does this happen, when supporters are allowed to vote for party members? 

It is simple, because there is no way, in which the leader of any political party will condone the inclusion on a party list a significant number of party members who do not tow his line. 

In reality, Namibia is being governed by few individuals who pull political strings at will – any time it pleases them. 


Motive for the party list system

Some political scholars are of the opinion that the system was introduced at the dawn of Independence to accommodate the liberation stalwarts who lacked constituencies back home after returning from exile. 

Swapo had many cases of such people at that time and the thought of throwing away their comrades in the political doldrums was a bitter pill to swallow. 

The comrades had fearlessly fought to liberate Namibia, but coming back from the struggle, only to realise that the brave fighters did not qualify to go to parliament if they were to contest and stand up and campaign for the parliamentary seats. 

After tasting the system and found to be beneficiary, the whole political system of Namibia succumbed to it, as the opposition parties equally embraced it. 

Motions to move away from this draconian political system has been vetoed and Namibians have been moving on as if the system is representative to all.



The system benefits the party political cabals because it keeps them in power provided they can manipulate and manoeuvre the party followers. 

The so-called cream of the party is also untouched and the elite make sure it stays put without being tempered with. 

The party “faithful ‘hardly complain about the turnout of events after the results at the electoral colleges. 

At every Electoral College, it is the same prominent members of the party who top the list. 

Ways and means are always created to squeeze in members who are believed and felt that they should not be left out. 

It is perhaps one reason why electoral colleges are held during the night and only release the results in the early hours of the following day. The party cadres seem to be always at work rigging the elections at that level.



Ideas from the radically minded members are never entertained and these elements are usually portrayed in a bad light. 

In extreme cases, they are demonised as traitors, sidelined and even expelled from the party fold.  

This is always a lesson to intimidate those members who bite the finger that feeds them. This system inhibits creative thinking and tends to turn many “party faithful” into “yes-mannerism” and subject’s potential leaders into political zombies good for empty sloganeering. 

The expectant electorates end up being losers as they wait for service delivery which hardly comes their way. 



The members picked from the lists are only answerable to the president and his or her party.  

The masses are not taken into consideration whenever decisions are made, because the people voted for the party not the individual Member of Parliament. 

Instead, the party list member in many democracies should actually go out there and campaign in person. 


Recycled politicians 

Because the party elites are comfortable in their positions, and confident to be elected during the next election, little is done in their regions to spearhead developmental projects. 

Development is stagnated, as the members of parliament are reluctant to engage the electorate and mobilise them for action to improve their livelihood. 

These politicians become “deadwood” and hardly deliver as they resent new ideas from the young generation. 

The old generation becomes untouchable and tries by all means to stay in power at the expense of the masses who eagerly need services promised them during the election campaign. 


Change is inevitable

Despite all these obstacles in the way of the masses, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. It is time for the political octogenarians in Namibia to consider relinquishing power by abolishing the party list system and give the young blood chance to take over the reins of power. 

Bringing in two ministers in their twenties is not good enough, as the majority of young Namibians are still out there wallowing in the cold. 

The Namibian party list system should be outdated and should allow members of parliament to campaign freely and become responsible to the electorate not to the party president.

2021-09-24  Prof Makala Lilemba

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