- Namibia's ruling SWAPO party and its presidential candidate Hifikepunye Pohamba appear set to score a handsome victory in this week's presidential and National Assembly elections. If the trends emerging in the early results are repeated countrywide, SWAPO is likely to increase its two-thirds majority in parliament, while Mr Pohamba might receive an even more popular mandate than President Sam Nujoma.
With partial results of only around 10 of the 107 constituencies declared by early evening, Namibia's opposition parties appeared to have fragmented the vote to the extent that the dominant and ruling SWAPO might even increase its seats in the Windhoek parliament.
Although it was difficult to predict the outcome because of the limited results available, initial indications appear to point to both the DTA of Namibia and the Congress of Democrats (CoD) losing a number of seats in the National Assembly. The DTA and the CoD traditionally have been Namibia's dominant opposition parties, but both have led a dull election campaign this year.
Namibian election officials were yesterday estimating an average national turnout of around 80 percent, which would raise the bar in terms of the number of votes needed to gain a parliamentary seat. Nine of the 10 results reported at the time of going to press were for the presidential election.
However the pattern emerging there should be largely repeated in the National Assembly election. Those observers who were prepared to put their heads on the block, estimated that the CoD might see its seats reduced from seven to five.
The new opposition party National Unity Democratic Organisation (NUDO) was not doing as well as expected in the Omaheke Region, its supposed stronghold west of the capital, Windhoek. Early results indicated that in the region's Otjombinde constituency, NUDO leader Kuaima Riruako apparently took votes from his former party, the DTA, allowing SWAPO's Hifikepunye Pohamba to gallop across the line with 1,010 votes.
Mr Riruako received 537 votes compared to the 612 of DTA leader Katuutire Kaura. The number of votes garnered by the CoD's Ben Ulenga at Otjombinde dropped from 137 in 1999 to 65.
Surprisingly, Monitor Action Group's (MAG) Kosie Pretorius outshone other candidates from more established opposition groups in three constituencies of the Ohangwena Region in the north, for which results had been announced at the time of going to press. Though he only narrowly beat out other presidential contenders, Mr Pretorius was not expected to outperform Mr Ulenga in Ongenga, Ondobe and Eenhana.
'The Namibian' observed SWAPO stalwart Paulus Kapia actually congratulating Mr Pretorius for his performance in the ruling party's northern stronghold. However, MAG's overall performance in the counted constituencies provides no guarantee that Mr Pretorius will return to parliament.
If anything, the high turnout reported by the Electoral Commission could sound the death knell for MAG as they might need more than 10,000 votes to win a seat. In the last national election, MAG and Mr Pretorius scraped through with 3,600 votes.
SWAPO was always expected to win, and to win by a landslide, but if pattern of the early results holds firm, the party should increase its two-thirds majority in the National Assembly. By yesterday afternoon, SWAPO presidential candidate Pohamba had claimed more than 75 percent of the votes counted. Mr Kaura was trailing in second place with seven percent.
Mr Pohamba was victorious in the Epukiro and Otjombinde constituencies - areas where the DTA was known to be in charge in the past. One political commentator said Mr Pohamba might even nail the 80 percent mark - which would give him a bigger mandate than even President Sam Nujoma, who has consistently pulled more votes than his party.
An early surprise was the CoD losing its hold in the Rehoboth Urban West constituency. In the 1999 elections, Ben Ulenga claimed more than 1,100 votes while Mr Nujoma collected 140. In the results released yesterday, Mr Ulenga had 825 votes compared to Mr Pohamba's 1 429.
Most residents at Rehoboth hail from the Baster group who were instructed in no uncertain terms by their traditional leader John McNab to vote for Swapo. Mr McNab was recently appointed as special advisor on traditional matters to the Minister of Regional, Local Government and Housing.
Based on the initial results, the CoD and Ulenga appeared to be struggling to maintain the party's 1999 level of support. Which party will emerge as the official opposition, who will gain parliamentary seats and who will not make it will probably remain until the late hours of Saturday as the sluggish counting of ballot papers is set to continue into the weekend.
Indications are that political parties will only know by Sunday which of their candidates have made it to Parliament, while the official results might only be released by late Monday or Tuesday morning. For now, the only certainty is that SWAPO and its candidate, Mr Pohamba, will score a resounding victory.
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