News24

Namibian elections draw to a close

2009-11-28 18:02

Windhoek - Namibians were voting Saturday in the second and final day of national and presidential elections that are expected to return the long-ruling Swapo to power despite a challenge from a new breakaway party.

Officials reported long queues on Friday and Saturday, with turnout easing off later in the day in the mainly desert nation.

President Hifikepunye Pohamba, the successor to Namibia's founding father Sam Nujoma, is seeking a second term in office and is expected to see off a challenge from a former foreign minister.

The former revolutionary South West African People's Organisation (Swapo) has dominated politics since winning independence from neighbouring South Africa in 1990 after a low-level civil war.

Namibia has known economic prosperity and political stability since then, and the country is rich in minerals such as diamonds, uranium, zinc and tanzanite. It also shares a border with oil-producing Angola.

Pohamba's main challenger is the upstart Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) of former foreign minister Hidipo Hamutenya, who launched the new party two years ago after losing a bid to take over Swapo himself.

The two parties are the biggest of 12 putting forward candidates for the presidency, with the RDP claiming about 250 000 supporters from an estimated 1.1 million voters.

Hamutenya was a popular figure within Swapo, and he hopes to tap into dissatisfaction with the ruling party.

Five years ago Swapo took three-fourths of the vote for both president and parliament - the same result as the 1999 polls. The RDP does not expect to win, but does hope to become the main opposition party.

Tensions have occasionally turned violent, with stonings and intimidation directed at RDP members.

Overall, the campaign was low key, with Swapo taking credit for roads, clinics and classrooms built in the past five years but vague about its future targets.

Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) chairman Victor Tonchi said turnout has been brisk.

The first polling results are expected by noon on Sunday, an ECN official said.

"Counting will immediately start after polls close at 21:00 tonight and we hope to have the first results coming in by midday on Sunday," ECN deputy operations director Theo Mujoro told AFP.

AFP