Monday 12 April 2021
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Apathy in voter registration worrisome

By Lahja Nashuuta

Windhoek-The low and apathetic turn-up for the supplementary voter registration exercise in preparation for the general elections scheduled for November that kicked of on 8 July has sparked worry among the political experts.
Some political analysists have already predicted  that with the low turn up for voter registration, come November 2019, a  minority will decide the fate of governance processes.
Based on The Patriot’s  observation when visiting voter registration sites, so far only a few people have registered. Information provided by the ECN officials at the sites also indicates that during the past four days, the turnover range between 50 to 200 and at some sites it was below 50.
Political analyst, Dr Hoze Riruako described the low turn up as a warning signal for political parties as well as the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN). He cautioned the ruling party to modify their election registration awareness campaigns as members of public still need to be convinced on the significance of participating in elections.
He points out that Namibia had overwhelming voter registration turn up in 1989, when the country voted for the first time. This, he believes was because citizens wanted to be independent from colonial oppression and they had high expectations from the incoming Government. However, he said after independence there has been dramatically reduction on the number of voters.
Riruako attributed the voter apathy to a lack of public trust on political parties, outdated and insufficient voters education and government unfulfilled promises from the previous elections.
“Here are also complaints about politicians not listening to the public, failing to address public problems such as problems of unemployment, access to education system/structures, difficulty in accessing services and resources such as land, power and water issues among others. All these require that leaders elect people whom we believe can make the necessary decisions to make things better” he said.
Riruako further emphasised that people vote because they want good governance, they want to be treated fairly and they want their basic needs to be met.
He therefore it up to the political parties to come up with the manifestos that are realistic and avoid making entry promises.
“The public normally study the party’s manifesto that they present to the public during the election campaigns and it’s based on the promise that they get votes. However, for the past years a voter has been misconceptions that the political parties have failed to deliver on their promises” he said.
He with so much challenges issues facing the community such as unemployment, access to education, health and chronic hunger, sanitation and water there is a need for the government to intensify its voter registration campaign and educate people on the importance of the election and why they should vote.
“You might be surprised that there are still people who are not aware that supplementary voter registration has started. The ECN should make sure that the message has reached everybody.
We are living in the fourth industrial revolution where everyone has access to a cellphone and these are the ICT tools that we need to make use of,” Riruako commented.
Sharing the same sentiment was the Sacky Nicodemus a well-known leadership expert, author and motivational speaker who emphasis on the need for the government to try and fulfil its promises made during the last election. Nicodemus said the social and economic challenges facing the country has created voter apathy. “It is, therefore, for the ECN to analyse what factors make a person less likely to go to the polls and vote,” he said.
He said there seems to be lack of understanding of the significance of election in a democratic country  and  people always have high expectation from the ruling party.
Nicodemus therefore said the electoral commission, the political parties as well as the ruling party need to put more effort into voter registration awareness campaign  to ensure people understand the significance of voting.
He also urged the ruling party to try and address some of the major challenges facing the youth such as unemployment and access to education for them to have courage to register for elections.
The voter apathy is not only affecting the country at the parliamentary and general election level but also at the regional and constituency level.
Last month, the Ondangwa Urban Constituency in Oshana region held an Ondangwa Urban constituency by-elections whereby 16000 residents were expected to vote, however only 3793 votes were cast.

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