Nam, TZ plan polls amidst COVID-19

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Windhoek - Namibia and Tanzania are working out the modalities of holding elections in October and November under the changed environment created by COVID-19.

Malawi in June proved that not only is it possible to hold elections during the pandemic, but also that polls could be successfully staged without the involvement of international observers and monitors.

The poll - a presidential run-off triggered by a court ruling throwing out an earlier result - was widely hailed as credible, free and fair.

Another SADC member, Comoros held parliamentary elections in June.

Namibia this week launched the last round of voter education for local government elections in which the dominant SWAPO Party will seek to ward off the challenge of a raft of opposition movements.

Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) Chief Elections Officer Theo Munjoro said the regional and council elections would be held under strict World Health Organisation guidelines.

“We do not need to hold back on the elections but rather we need to embrace technology as much as possible and encourage voters to meet the health guidelines. It is important for the voters to know that they should wear their masks to protect themselves and others not as a favour to the ECN,” Mujoro said.

“It is obvious that our operations will have to fit into the curfew times in instances where the voting happens during the lockdown. Polling stations will open at 7am and close at 7pm. The Namibian security sector has also been notified that there is a possibility of election agents moving way after the 8pm lockdown time. We have provided all our voters with all the needed paperwork needed to implement a safe and credible election on the set dates.”

Tanzania, which eased lockdown restrictions months ago, is in full swing for Presidential elections.

President John Magufuli is seeking re-election after Chama Cha Mapinduzi endorsed him as the ruling party’s candidate.

Namibian political analyst Ndumba Kamwanya underscored the need for governments to strike a balance between public health and upholding democratic principles.

“On one hand governments would like to protect the lives of their citizens but on the other hand it is important to find ways of dealing with the pandemic in a manner that does not compromise democratic space and processes.

“... What is important is for governments that are holding elections to find acceptable ways of rolling out election processes without compromising the health of the citizens.”

 

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