Namibia: National Assembly and Presidential Elections in 1994

Extracted from: "Namibia" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 262-264.

A supplementary voters registration process was conducted during the period 29 August to 7 October 1994. 119 752 voters were added to the register while the old register was also cross checked. The total number of registered voters amounted to 654 189. The Directorate estimated that in 1994, 1 545 638 people were living in Namibia. This figure was based on the 1991 official census figures, and included a growth rate of approximately 3.1% per annum. It further estimated, again based on official statistics, that 51% of Namibia's population were of an eligible age. This implied that, in 1994, Namibia had 788 382 eligible voters in total, of whom 82.98% had been registered. As nobody in Namibia is obliged to register, the total number of registered voters was considered as satisfactory.

During the supplementary registration process an extraordinary high number of people (62.8%) were registered by sworn statements, due to the lack of identity documents. Thousands of voters had lost their voter registration cards since the 1992 elections, but could apply for duplicates. In the end, 36 777, duplication cards were issued. The election proved that even more voters had lost their cards, but were not allowed to vote even though their names appeared on the voters' lists.

During the 1994 National Assembly and presidential elections, the whole of Namibia comprised one constituency. The percentage of support for a political party or a presidential candidate in the whole of Namibia, and not a constituency or region, would determine the final result. Results in constituencies and regions were of statistical interest only. Deadline for the registration of political parties was set for 24 October 1994. Parties that had registered before were not required to re-register. Three new parties were added in 1994, namely, the Democratic Coalition of Namibia (DCN), the Federal Convention of Namibia (FCN) and the Monitor Action Group (MAG).

Nomination day was set for 7 November 1994. Nomination lists with at least 24 candidates for the National Assembly had to be submitted. The following parties complied with all the rules and submitted their lists: DCN, DTA, FCN, MAG, SWANU, SWAPO, UDF and WRP. Only two parties, the DTA and SWAPO, nominated candidates for the presidential elections: the DTA nominated Mr M Muyongo, and SWAPO, Dr S Nujoma.

The election campaign commenced in all earnest thereafter. Political parties relied on their own funding and were compelled by law, to declare publicly any funding they received from external donors. None of the parties received such funding. The lack of financial resources restricted political parties in their endeavours to propagate their views widely. Free time was allocated to the political parties, as was the practise during the 1992 and 1998 elections, on radio and TV. Only the two main political contenders, SWAPO and DTA, had the outright backing of two daily newspapers. The rest of the printed media pursued a policy of neutrality when reporting on political party meetings and commenting on political parties' statements.

The task of voter education and information rested heavily on the shoulders of the Directorate of Elections. It was supported by the Namibia Institute for Democracy, a local NGO. This pattern repeated itself during the 1998 elections. Particular attention was given to the rural areas where 65% of Namibia's population resides. As a new approach a theatre play with an electoral theme was produced and performed. It was well received. A 20-page supplement to local newspapers elaborated on the elections and voting process. The Directorate also published a glossary of electoral terms and a voter education manual.

A new invention was the tendered vote system. This system enables voters who are not in their registered constituencies on the day of voting, to cast their vote in another constituency. The tendered vote system was also extended to absentee voters in foreign countries during elections. They could cast their vote in the offices of Namibia's foreign missions on the first day of voting.

Another important issue addressed in consultation with political parties was the continued registration of voters. In essence, it implies that in each constituency voters can register on a continuous base. This system was only introduced after the 1994 elections in 1996. The mentioned two changes gave rise to the Electoral Amendment Act (Act 23 of 1994). Other changes involved that, in future, all ballot papers were to include a photo of a nominated candidate or, when a list system is applied, the photo of the head of the respective participating parties.

Particular attention was given to the training of electoral officers. The objective was not to repeat mistakes of the past. Five thousand electoral officials and just above 100 returning officers were temporarily appointed. The directorate could rely on the reservoir of human resources employed during the 1992 elections. This was particularly helpful considering that only eight weeks were available before election day. In addition, one coordinator in each of the thirteen regions was temporarily appointed. The practise of appointing coordinators, although the Electoral Act does not make provision for such position, proved its worth. Coordinators perform their tasks as a decentralized but direct link to the Director, and were often called upon to mediate at regional and local level, and to make or implement policy and organisational decisions at short notice.

The election campaign went smoothly. Occasional complaints of opponents disrupting meetings and alleged intimidation could be handled to the satisfaction of political parties by the Director or the Commission.

Elections were held on 4 and 5 December 1994. The announcement of the elections was delayed by several days for two reasons: one due to logistical difficulties experienced in transporting the tendered ballot boxes to Windhoek for counting, and the other due to a serious problem encountered in four northern constituencies where the number of votes cast exceeded the number of voters registered. On 13 December the official results were announced by the Director of Elections (National Assembly Elections results) and the Chairman of the Electoral Commission (Presidential elections).

In the presidential election Dr S Nujoma of SWAPO Party received 370 452 (74.46%) votes and Mr M Muyongo of DTA 114 843 (23.08%) votes. 12 213 (2.45%) votes were rejected. A total of 76.05% of the registered voters cast their vote.

In the National Assembly election 76.05% of the registered voters cast their vote. SWAPO Party obtained 361 800 votes (72.72%), represented by 53 representatives in the National Assembly; DTA, 101 748 votes (20.45%), 15 representatives in the National Assembly; UDF, 13 309 votes (2.68%), 2 representatives in the National Assembly; DCN, 4 058 votes (0.82%), one representative in the National Assembly; and MAG, 4 005 votes (0.81%), 1 representative in the National Assembly. Not represented in the National Assembly were: SWANU with 2 598 votes (0.52%), FCN with 1 166 votes (0.23%), and WRP with 952 votes (0.19%). A total of 7 863 votes (1.58%) were rejected.

The official opposition party DTA brought an election application to the High Court of Namibia, soon after the elections were announced, complaining of an undue return and undue elections. The case was defended by the Office of the Prime Minister and the Directorate of Elections. In a court judgement of 10 March 1995, the application was turned down. The DTA lodged an appeal with the Supreme Court, but failed.

International and domestic observers attended the 1996 elections. During the 1992 Regional and Local Authority elections only three international observers were interested to observe the elections. Eventually 140 international and 50 domestic observers were accredited by the Directorate for the 1994 elections.