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Opinion - Understanding the regional council and local authority elections

2020-10-23  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Understanding the regional council and local authority elections
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Namibians will go to the polls on 25 November to elect new local authority and regional councillors in what is expected to be an exciting showdown. 
The upcoming election has attracted unprecedented attention. It has generated rich discussions among many commentators within the legal, political, economic and public sphere.  

The Electoral Commission of Namibia recently announced they registered a record high of 93 independent candidates to contest in the upcoming election. An “Independent” candidate refers to a candidate who decides to run for office even though he/she has decided not to align with any political party or organisation.  

What makes this upcoming election even more interesting is the participation of the Affirmative Repositioning, commonly known as AR, a radical movement in Namibia, aimed at improving the socio-economic conditions of Namibian citizens. AR registered as an organisation in terms of section 148 of the electoral law of 2014. This will enable AR to field candidates for the local authority council elections. They are poised to set up a spectacular challenge against the other political parties and organisations registered to participate.

While in a social setting recently, with some companions having a light discussion about the upcoming election, I realised many people do not really understand the nature of the upcoming local authority and regional council elections. Many people perceive these elections to be not so important, which triggered me to pen this article. This article briefly addresses three key points: What is an election?; the nature of local authority and regional council elections – and lastly, the importance of voting in the upcoming elections.
An election is a process that allows eligible members of a community to choose representatives of their choice who will hold positions of authority. The chance to decide who will govern at the different levels of governance serves as an opportunity for the public to make choices about the policies, programs and future directions of government action. 

Elections also promote accountability from the elected leaders. Holding of regular, credible, free and fair elections promotes the principles of democracy.

Regional council elections are conducted according to the majoritarian system, which entails that the candidate with the most votes is the winner. This means the candidate who receives most votes per constituency will be elected to the regional council. During the regional council elections, voters only vote in the constituency they are registered. 

Regional councils are responsible for the development and administration of the region. Every Council must strive to promote development in the region to improve the living conditions of its residents. During the election, voters will vote for the candidate they believe will administer their constituency most capably and effectively. During the first sitting of the regional council, the members will elect two Councilors to represent the region in the National Council.

Local authority elections are conducted on a proportional representation system. During the election, the eligible voters vote for the political party or organisation they prefer. The party or the organisation appoints its representatives to the local authority based on the proportional list system. The seats in the local authority council are allocated in proportion to the number of votes the party or organisation has received. Therefore, the more votes the party receives, the more seats it will receive onto the local authority council. 

 Local authority councils include all municipalities, town councils and village councils. These councils are tasked with managing and maintaining the area for which they are established and which they represent. During the local authority election, voters will vote for the political party of their choice. A party will appoint its representatives to the local authority based on the proportional list system.
Although these elections do not receive the same attention accorded to the National Assembly and Presidential elections, they are fundamental for regional and national development.  Importantly, these elections are meant to complement government’s decentralisation efforts. 

The Decentralisation Policy of 1998 aims to widen the level of democracy at the regional level and to increase the participation of the general population in their development, thereby “deepening democracy, bringing government closer to the people, promoting broader participation in governmental and developmental affairs by all citizens”. 

Namibia is currently facing many challenges, ranging from skyrocketing unemployment rate, poor health and education system and an ailing economy, among other challenges. This has been a difficult time for so many and has shown us the importance of electing leaders at every level who put the interests and well being of the people who voted for them in office first.  
So, come 25 November, all registered and eligible voters are encouraged to go out in numbers to make their voices heard! Every vote matter, and so does every single race on the ballot!

2020-10-23  Staff Reporter

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