Opposition parties get two seats in National Council

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Windhoek

Following its resounding victory in the just-ended regional council and municipal elections the ruling Swapo Party now occupies 40 seats in the house of review.

Swapo, which could have used its absolute majority to take up all 42 seats in the National Council, offered one seat each to the DTA and Nudo.

Nudo is represented in the National Council by Aminius Constituency Councillor Peter Kazongominja, while the DTA is represented by Epupa Constituency Councillor Nguzu Muharukua, from the Kunene.
Commenting on yesterday’s events, political commentator, Dr Hoze Riruako of the University of Namibia, said the fact that Swapo party is so strong and the opposition parties so weak threatens democracy in the country.

“The ruling (Swapo) Party is so strong and the opposition so weak. Swapo has been winning a landslide majority and the situation is not improving for the opposition, but deteriorating. There are so many people leaving the opposition for Swapo,” Riruako observed. “That, in my opinion, is not good for democracy. The problem is when you don’t have a competent watchdog on the opposition it kills and removes an important cardiac element of democracy, which are the checks and balances. Checks and balances prevent absolute control, either by a political party or by one organ of government over another,” Riruako said.

Swapo now controls the National Assembly by over 80 percent and the National Council by more than 90 percent.
With the poor electoral performance of the opposition, Riruako believes Swapo will basically be reviewing its own work in both houses, saying no one else would be able to inject a different opinion: “That to me kills the essence of democracy.”

However, Riruako said Swapo cannot be blamed for their current level of representation, but rather the opposition parties themselves, who failed to run effective political campaigns that appeal to voters and give them an alternative.
Political analyst Graham Hopwood of the Institute of Public Policy Research said Swapo acted wisely by allowing two opposition MPs to take up seats in the National Council, when they could have completely dominated the chamber on the basis of the results of the regional council elections. He is, however, of the view that having a multi-party chamber would generate a better debate and hopefully improved laws.

In general, women’s representation in the National Council also suffered a setback as only ten women were sworn in yesterday, contrary to the stated principle of 50/50 gender representation in politics, advanced principally by the ruling party. Newly-elected National Council chairperson Margaret Mensah-Williams, who took over from Asser Kapere, applauded women’s increased representation, saying it’s the first time in the country’s history that a woman heads the upper house of parliament. Bernard Sibalatani was elected as the vice-chairperson of the National Council.

Riruako believes the implementation of 50/50 gender balance in politics is not sustainable: “I think instead of trying to make provision for women, we should work hard to change the structures. Coming from an apartheid system, male domination is still entrenched.” Newly-elected Swapo chief whip in the National Council Lebbeus Tangeni Tobias has meanwhile rubbished the notion that there will be no democracy in the two houses of parliament. “I tend to differ when people say there will be no democracy if there is no opposition. We have said we are here to serve the Namibian people, that is why we fought to bring freedom and independence to our people to build the country.

Whether we have an opposition or not, we are determined to bring services to the Namibian people,” he said.
According to Tobias, having two members of the opposition in the National Council is proof of democracy in practice, as they came on the ticket of their parties based on their performance in the elections – which was conducted democratically. “There is nothing we can do about that. Swapo is a democratic party, we will work hand in hand with them as long as they toe the line and follow what we are discussing for the development of the country.”

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