New Book Contrasts Political Parties

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By Surihe Gaomas WINDHOEK “Namibia’s political system tends to encourage small-time politicians, several of them ethnic entrepreneurs, who wish simply to win a wedge of support in their home areas that will justify a presence in Parliament.” This is one of the concluding remarks by Researcher Graham Hopwood, who is one of the four writers of the newly launched book: Spot the Difference – Namibia’s Political Parties Compared by the Namibia Institute for Democracy (NID) in Windhoek yesterday. The other three authors are Robin Sherbourne, Justine Hunter and Martin Boer. The 147-page book sheds light on the political and economic platforms of Namibia’s political parties and compares and contrasts their most recent election manifestos as well as other party policy documents. The latest publication on the one hand examines the policy issues of political parties, while on the other assessing the effectiveness of Namibia’s opposition parties and their potential for future growth. It observes that there appears to be a number of Namibian politicians who joined political parties not mainly on the grounds of agreement with the political platform, but for other reasons such as liberation, history, ethnicity and personal gain. These are some of the issues elaborated on in the book’s chapter by Hopwood. He said that opposition parties are too focussed on the past and replicating the old ways of only getting top people in Parliament. At the same time, mass party membership does not seem to be a major issue for political parties, especially those from the opposition, while the ruling party Swapo has managed to successfully gain support from the populace. “This has got to do with complacency and the history of the parties, whereby in the colonial system, they depended a lot on tribal support rather than mobilisa-tion…there’s a lack of will to build the grassroots,” added Hopwood. The comprehensive publication states clearly there is not much of a difference between the political parties in the country. A few exceptions would be that of Swapo having the longest election manifesto compared to other parties, while there is a general consensus on the issues of corruption and maladministration in the country. Opinions also expressed by opposition political parties have been that there are not enough resources for them to carry out their campaigns, unlike Swapo. The latest publication also looks at the different policies stated by the various political parties, like the de-commercialisation of bulk water supply, privatising communal land and alleviation of poverty. Author Justine Hunter said that the country’s main political parties remain mainly centrist, more pragmatic and less ideological in nature. “Even if they follow a centrist line, moderate tendencies to the left in the case of Swapo and CoD and to the right in the cases of DTA, NUDO, RP and NDMC can be identified.” The Monitor Action Group, MAG, is the only distinctive party with a strong rightist position without being an electoral threat to Swapo and the major opposition parties, states Hunter. The book was funded by the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, with the research carried out by the NID and the Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR). At the beginning of next year, the NID will launch a new edition of the Guide to Namibia Politics and will initiate its mentorship program-me to the public. The mentorship program-me aims at building capacity among students at the University of Namibia and the Polytechnic of Namibia.

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