By Catherine Sasman
A consultative workshop of the Electoral Commission of Namibia has recommended that the Electoral Act of 1992 should explicitly mandate the commission to conduct and regulate voter education.
The Electoral Commission (ECN) held the workshop attended by political parties and other interested members to asses the need for a total revision of the Act.
Regarding voter education, participants recommended that the ECN should consider the possibility of formal collaboration with other entities in voter education, including institutions such as universities, political parties and non-governmental organizations.
They further proposed providing a legal framework to accredit entities that would provide voter education.
Participants at the workshop held last Friday, noted that many potential voters still do not have the relevant national identity documents required for registration, and expressed frustration that this still remains the case.
The 50-odd representatives at the event suggested an amendment of the Electoral Act to provide for the registration of persons abroad, and that voters should be able to vote while at sea, although registration should be done while on land.
Some participants recommended that the deliberate disenfranchisement of potential voters on privately owned land should be criminalised and that punitive measures be enacted for offenders.
The members said the Act should specifically allow election officials to enter privately owned land for election purposes, and that there be proper communication channels between the ECN and private landowners.
In addition, stakeholders proposed the establishment of a code of conduct for election officials.
Similarly, a code of conduct for political parties should be revisited and should include punitive measures for offenders. Such a code of conduct, participants said, should not only be valid during election periods.
They said the time period determined for inspection of the provisional voters’ register currently provided for in the Act, is too close to the election date which makes it impractical to finalise objections.
They agreed that an amendment should be made to allow for more time.
Another proposed amendment to the Act was that if there is only one presidential candidate, such a candidate is declared duly elected.
Counting of votes should start immediately after the closure of polls, and an amendment introduced to allow for the counting of votes to be done at the given polling stations.
They said the counting system of the tendered votes should be retained, but that the tendered ballot system be administered more effectively.
Especially in the light of the proposed introduction of the electronic voting machine, designed in India and reportedly used successfully in that country.
Moreover, some participants, who felt that there is a lack of effective representation of party agents at polling and counting stations due to a lack of funds, suggested that the Namibian Government provide funds to pay their agents.
The various roles of observers and monitors should also be clearly defined to avoid a conflict of interest, and that there should be a conflict resolution body like an Electoral Court.
The meeting sought a clear definition of the term “dormant party”, suggesting that they be de-registered after 10 years.