In about a month’s time from today, the country shall be going to the polls, this time around for the regional council and local authority elections. This, after the Presidential and National Assembly elections were held last year.
With slightly less than a month to go and despite some political parties having launched their election campaigns already, the requisite excitement and expectation still need to heat up, if ever it will.
Perhaps it may be too early as yet, if a month or so, which is left before the polls, can really be said to be early.
But the lack of excitement as far the regional and local elections are concerned is not a new thing in Namibia’s relatively young democratic dispensation. Not to mention the well-documented apathy in these elections, telling from a low voter turnout in previous elections.
The reasons can be as many as they could be varied. But one unpalatable phenomenon to these elections has been the un-niceties and controversies shrouding the primaries to elect candidates for these elections, with such controversies running across the board of all political parties. Like in years gone by, this year has been no exception with various political parties experiencing their share of controversies during their primaries. To what extent this may be putting a damper on the forthcoming elections remains to be seen but the seeming lack of excitement now, as early as this may seem, could be one factor.
The other factor is that while these elections are supposed to be about local and regional candidates, more often than not these very candidates have been seemingly invisible, with the national leaders of the various political parties continuing to dominate the political or electoral theatre at this level as well. It would be a wonder if most of the electorate in most of the localities and regions would be able to confidently identify the candidates, or their localities, as well as for their constituencies, let alone associate with them.
This is because while this is their show and the electorate is supposed to be running it, many a time they have been seeming to be at the periphery of the processes to elect their candidates, if not altogether alien to such processes. And once again this is without any exception of any political party.
The media has been abuzz with reports of the wrangling within the political parties relating to the primaries, which testify to the fact that things are not really what they seem, democratic, as far as the primaries have been concerned. Not only the primaries but also even the electioneering process, including the campaigns in which all along since time immemorial with the advent of elections at the local and regional level, local candidates have been seemingly conspicuously invisible. And as if this is not enough, candidates at these levels, many a time, have seemed more proxies and non-equals of their national equals other than the real choices of the local parties’ structures and cadres.
For no apparent reasons incumbents have been unseated under controversial circumstances regardless of their good track records while in office. Only to be replaced by candidates with dubious political credentials or track records in terms of loyalty to their communities or commitment to community service.
One disturbing factor is that lately one has been observing hordes of new candidates for the regional or local elections, with few of the incumbents remaining. As if the incumbents have not been performing or have committed one or the other crime. As a result in some of the councils there will be little continuity. This is highly disturbing given that somehow stability was only starting to be established in terms of governance at these two tiers of governance. Now it may seem back to square one with this new crop of candidates who would have to learn afresh the ropes of governance at these levels. And this can be an expensive affair the country can ill afford.
If such candidates have to be shepherded by the political national principals all the way to the polls without them assuming the baton of electioneering, can they in this regard be really trusted with public affairs at the local and regional (constituency) level once elected? Your guess is as good as mine. But the lessons are for all to see regarding to what extent the country has been bleeding under the incompetence of some, if not most of the governors at these tiers. As a young democracy, we must be prepared to shoulder the cost of nurturing an efficient and dynamic and responsive dispensation. But there surely must be a limit to such. A young dispensation we may be, but we must still be inclined towards instructive learning curves. But surely not every turn can be a learning curve. Not when a comrade agitates for the unseating of a fellow to assume the position for self-aggrandisement rather than to serve the community. Because if the chaos during the primaries is anything to go by, it is driven by nothing else than egoistic cravings of the imposed candidates and their proxies.