Green light for voters’ roll

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...ECN given go-ahead

WINDHOEK – The National Assembly yesterday passed the Electoral Amendment Bill paving the way for the compilation of an updated national voters’ roll. The second national voters’ roll expires at the end of this month.

The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) has been presented with a deadline, which is June 30, 2014 to compile a new national voters’ roll considering the current roll will expire this month, while some residents of the Zambezi, Kavango East, Kavango West would have to register to participate in future elections and voters in the renamed constituencies have to be provided ample time to prepare for the 2014 elections as well. There are also constituencies such as ≠Naminüs formerly Lüderitz, which have undergone a name change,  while the Steinhausen constituency has been renamed the Okarukambe constituency which was the original name of that area. The name Luhonono has now replaced Schuckmannsburg in the Zambezi Region and all these changes have to be factored into the new national voters’ roll necessitating the amendment that was fast-tracked in the National Assembly this week. Another factor that necessitated the amendment to the Electoral Act and that will be discussed today by the National Council is that some people no longer live in their former regions and constituencies.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba last week called for members of both the National Assembly and the National Council who were on recess to hold a special session that would enable parliament to amend the Electoral Act to pave the way for the updated voters’ roll.

“This will contribute to credible, transparent, free and fair National Assembly and Presidential elections next year since all stakeholders will have sufficient time to scrutinise the voters’ roll,” the president announced when he issued an urgent directive to the ECN to finalise updating the present voters’ roll. The president directed the ECN to start working on the new voters’ roll without delay. “As has been the case in the past, we are determined to ensure that the forthcoming elections reflect the will of the nation,” he said in respect of the third national voters’ roll. In terms of Section 15 of the Electoral Act of 1992, the current voters’ roll expires at the end of this month.

The voter registration exercise is expected to cost N$54 million and will require about 4 000 people to complete. Charles Namholoh, the Minister of Regional and Local Government, Housing and Rural Development who motivated the amendment to the Electoral Act said in order to avoid a legal vacuum, it became necessary to call a special session of the National Assembly in terms of Article 62 (1) (c) of the Namibian Constitution in order to deal with the matter by way of amending the Act. Further, clause 1 amends section 15 of the Electoral Act so as to extend the period within which a new voters’ roll is to be prepared until the end of June next year. “I am fully confident that before that date, the nation is assured of a new voters’ roll where all stakeholders, especially registered political parties will be given an opportunity to scrutinise and if need be object to any name that would appear on the voters’ roll,” Namholoh motivated.

During the 2009 election challenge, the High Court confirmed that the electoral law of Namibia is too complicated and therefore needs to be simplified. Against this background, Namholoh said there is an urgent need to come up with a consolidated Act in a simplified form that is understood by common people on the street. The Bill is the tenth amendment to take place with the first amended in 1994, then 1998 followed by two amendmends in 1999. Other amendments took place in 2002, 2009 and 2010. “At the end of the day, the Namibian electoral law is a jungle which needs urgent attention. Therefore, once the simplified law is passed by parliament, there will be a need for public education so that those who are entrusted with its implementation, as well as stakeholders will be in a position to internalise the new law. Due to the urgency of this amendment, and given the fact that it has only two clauses, it is now my singular honour to move that this august House passes all the stages of the Bill today (Wednesday),” the minister said.

Before the Amendment Bill was passed and referred to the National Council for further consideration, members of the opposition raised issues ranging from alleged “ghost names” that appear on the voters’ roll, alleged rigging of elections and  people allowed to vote without valid national identification.

Heiko Lucks, who is an MP of the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) claimed previous voters’ rolls contained ghost voters. “This can be the same [under] the new Act. If we start registering people now, we will have voters registered [under] both the new and the old Act,” he charged. He further charged that people have been allowed to register to vote without valid national identification documents. “The only reason the Electoral Commission of Namibia allows people to register without valid identification is to rig elections,” Lucks further charged. However, Namholoh explained that people can not be turned away, especially if they lost their documents in incidents such as in a fire.

DTA member Phillemon Moongo said: “After we amend this Bill, we must cooperate and demand ECN to show the voters’ roll so that those who died do not appear again on the list.” The opposition also demanded that the ECN and the Ministry of Home Affairs and Immigration work together so that the ministry can provide the electoral body with accurate information about the dead to avoid them reappearing on the new roll. Home Affairs Minister, Pendukeni Iivula-Ithana also weighed in saying: “For those articulating that there will be old registration of voters … there will be nothing of that sort. We are going to start from scratch and for those who died already, no one will take them from where they are buried.” However, she said as a custodian for data pertaining to deaths and births, her ministry is constrained by money to be able to provide information about the dead to the ECN.
15 Aug 2013 – Story by Albertina Nakale

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