Windhoek - Namibia has shown that democracy can thrive without let or hindrance in the age of COVID-19, after successfully holding regional and local government polls on November 25.
Around 1,4 million out of a population of 2,5 million people registered to vote in the elections.
Naysayers and prophets of doom had predicted chaotic balloting because of the logistical considerations arising from COVID-19, but by the time polls closed at 9pm, no major negative incidents had been reported and stakeholders were generally agreed that the election had gone ahead in a peace and credible manner.
President Hage Geingob hailed the nation for its political maturity, saying: “Fellow Namibians, thank you for the peaceful manner in which you have conducted yourselves during the campaigns for the local and regional elections. Our democracy is growing roots. Namibia is the only country we can call our home.”
Shortly after casting his vote, President Geingob said, “Done! My wife and I have exercised our democratic right and civic duty by casting our votes for the regional councils and local authority elections. All eligible voters, go out and vote for leaders of your choice.”
Minister of Justice Yvonne Dausab said the reality of the new coronavirus had added logistical and bureaucratic layers to the voting process.
COVID-19 statistics released by the Ministry of Health and Social Services a day after polling showed a rise in cases. In all, 149 new infections were recorded on post-election day, compared to 68 cases on Wednesday.
This could be a result of increased person-to-person contact during the last days of campaigning. Also, there is the possibility that more people than usual voluntarily went for testing after suspecting exposure to COVID-19 on Election Day. There is a likelihood of more cases being recorded in coming days.
Minister Dausab said, “It has been a challenge. Organisers had the responsibility to ensure compliance with health protocols. But we have seen what happened although the wearing of masks was generally complied with. Let's hope there is not a surge in corona cases going forward.”
Back to the actual polls, Electoral Commission of Namibia head Theo Mujoro said official results may take few days to be formally announced because the country was using f ballot papers rather than electronic voting machines that were used in presidential and national assembly elections last year.
This followed a court challenge on the constitutionality of electronic voting machines.
Namibia – a multiparty system - is widely lauded for its democracy and stability under the SWAPO Party government since independence in 1990.