The perennial whining by the country’s opposition thundered loud again this week when their MPs in the National Assembly complained bitterly on Wednesday about the use of electronic voting machines (EVMs).
As if admitting another routine defeat in next year’s general election, opposition MPs heaped all blame there is on the EVMs, suggesting they are being used to rig elections in favour of Swapo.
This old chorus, sang without substantive facts to back its lyrics, has become a boring cliché. Some international observers and media buy into such claims hook, line and sinker – a situation that throws muddy waters on the credibility of our electoral processes.
Elsewhere on the African continent, losers of elections have – without fear of consequences – often claimed rigging even when they failed to fill a beer hall with supporters during campaigning. Where they found a magic wand to win an election with supporters that can be counted on one hand is everyone’s guess.
Such utterances, often made from heavily guarded mansions, spill onto the streets where the ordinary folk butcher one another because of the hate planted in their psyche by lying politicians who have lost fairly and squarely. The events in Kenya in 2008 are a case in point.
Our pain does not lie in the scrutiny being subjected on EVMs, but when the complainants fail to produce evidence to back up their rigging claims, five years since the machines came to Namibia, we are compelled to conclude that these are empty cries meant to solicit sympathy from whoever cared to listen.
Why can’t the opposition hire independent experts to further scrutinise the machines and provide one final verdict, instead of subjecting the nation to the torture of these unsubstantiated perpetual allegations?
We need to inject efficiency in all spheres of our daily lives and voting should be no exception. Our electoral authorities must be given room to adjust to new developments, especially in this digital era we live in.
From our vantage, introducing EVMs was actually one of the most progressive steps in our body politic. The aftermath of the 2009 general election, where piles of papers had to be brought to court to supposedly prove rigging in that election, should be the last for our country. No more papers!
E-voting is one of the ways to deal with the voter apathy in Namibia. With this technology, voting queues are shorter, and so is time spent in the booth. This would encourage more people, especially the impatient youth of our Republic, to show up on election day.
EVMs have had several advantages over ballot paper – the foremost being the elimination of invalid votes. A statistical exercise by The Hindu, an Indian newspaper, found that in more than 300 of the 36 000-odd seats where elections were held over the years, invalid votes were significant enough to have affected the mandate.
The EVM has rendered the invalid vote moot. A paper by Brookings India also found that EVMs reduced electoral fraud and re-polling due to electoral rigging, and made elections a safe affair, thereby enhancing voter turnout.