Namibian President Hage Geingob on Saturday won the country’s presidential elections with a diminished majority of 56.3 per cent, the worst performance of any ruling party candidate for nearly 30 years.
Geingob was declared president of this week’s vote, retaining his position and the ruling South West Africa People’s Organisation’s (SWAPO) long dominance of power, despite a recession and a corruption scandal that has fuelled popular discontent.
SWAPO presidents have traditionally won by over 70 per cent in presidential elections since the country’s independence in 1990.
Geingob, 78, and his liberation party movement SWAPO both lost support compared to the previous national elections in the vast desert nation in southwest Africa, where he claimed a sweeping 87 per cent in the 2014 election.
Accepting the results, Geingob said there was always one winner in elections but that “democracy was the biggest winner.”
“It was peaceful and tough,” he said.
His strongest challenger, independent candidate Panduleni Itula, won 30 per cent of the vote, while the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) candidate McHenry Venaani bagged 5.3 per cent.
Itula, the country’s first presidential independent candidate, won in key economic urban areas such the capital Windhoek, Walvis Bay and Swakopmund at the coast.
Itula is popular among the country’s youth, nearly half of whom are unemployed and have grown frustrated with the regime.
“He (Itula) has acted as a lightning rod for frustrations and for people that are unhappy with the president,” said Graham Hopwood of the Institute for Public Policy Research, Namibia’s main think-tank.
Out of 11 presidential candidates, only two, including Geingob was present at the election announcement event, a clear sign of protest from opposition who have alleged electoral fraud.
The electoral commission announced SWAPO won 65 per cent of the national assembly seats, down from 80 per cent- losing its two-third majority in parliament.
The PDM, formerly the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), increased its national assembly party representation from 4.8 per cent to 16.55 per cent, securing 16 seats, according to the electoral commission.
While the Landless People’s Movement(LPM), a new political party that is tapping into people’s frustrations over a lack of access to land, came third with 4.9 per cent which earned them four seats.
Around 1.3 million people out of Namibia’s 2.45 million inhabitants were registered to vote. Half are younger than 37 and many were born after independence.
Statistics from the electoral commission show that more than 800,000 people voted in the presidential elections, a 60 per cent voter turn-out.
The latest results comes at a time of economic hardship and a 150 million Namibian dollars (US$10 million, 9.1 million euros) fishing corruption scandal that has led to the resignation and arrest of two top politicians – minister of fisheries Bernhard Esau and justice minister Sacky Shanghala. The two are currently detained, pending their bail application on Monday.
Namibia’s president has also come under fire since he became the head of state five years ago with some voters accusing him of pumping money into bloated administration and granting contracts to foreign companies rather than boosting the local economy which has been in a recession since 2016.
The election was “generally peaceful, well organised and conducted in a professional manner,” the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional bloc said Friday.
Commonwealth observers echoed that assessment and said the polls were “carried out in a largely peaceful and orderly manner”.
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