Voting extended in Namibia election

By Drum Digital
29 November 2014

Namibian voters cast their ballots late into the night Friday, as general election organisers ordered polling stations to extend operations until thousands still waiting had their turn.

More than an hour after the 1900 GMT deadline for polls to close, hundreds of people were seen waiting at one polling station in the west of Windhoek, with election officials reporting similar scenes elsewhere in the capital.

The election has been billed as Africa's first e-vote, and the ruling party expected to retain power it has held since independence.

Namibians were choosing 96 members of the national assembly and one of nine presidential candidates.

Throughout the day voting stations saw a brisk turnout, with countless thousands waiting in the fierce desert sun to vote, using hats, newspapers or umbrellas for shade.

Voters -- many casting their ballots for the first time -- for the most part waited patiently, and police said there were no reports of serious violence.

Namibia elections  (2)

The first results are expected to trickle in sometime in the early hours of Saturday, with final results coming as soon as 1900 GMT on Saturday.

The electronic tally should be quick, but with the prospect of voting continuing into Saturday morning, results may be delayed.

"We have been told to allow everyone who is here a vote," said the presiding officer at Van Rhyn School, where the crowd, who had waited as long as three hours, was in good spirits, joking that the government should provide food and water.

Polling began at 0500 GMT across the country.

"It's a rich country with poor people, so I hope there is more balance," said 43-year-old Elias while waiting to cast his vote.

The ruling South West Africa People's Organisation -- better known as SWAPO -- was forged from the embers of the anti-colonial and anti-apartheid struggle and has won every election in the 24 years since Namibia's independence.

Ahead of election day, foreign minister and senior SWAPO party official Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah told AFP victory was inevitable this time around as well.

"SWAPO is going to win. There is no 'if'. SWAPO is going to win," she said.

Around 1.2 million Namibians were eligible to cast their ballots at nearly 4,000 electronic voting places across the vast desert nation.

Other African nations have run pilot or limited e-voting, but none have done so on this scale.

Voting began slowly Friday as presiding officers rolled out the new Indian-made electronic voting system.

With each vote, the chunky green and white machines emitted a loud beep.

"The younger people get it first time, but with the older ones you have to explain a little," said presiding officer Hertha Erastus.

At other stations, independent observers noted significant delays and long queues when the machines malfunctioned.

Current Prime Minister Hage Geingob, the man almost certain to be named the next president when the final tally is in, cast his vote in the Windhoek township of Katutura.

"We have plans already, we are not a new party. We have plans that we are going to implement," he said Geingob afterwards.

"The second phase is that of economic emancipation," he added.

Opposition parties had launched an 11th-hour court challenge to stop the vote from going ahead, saying the use of the voting machines could facilitate vote rigging.

But the Windhoek High Court dismissed the application on Wednesday.

SWAPO remains by far the biggest party in the country, but has seen increased criticism of the slow pace of land reform as well as allegations of government corruption.

The key test of Friday's vote will be whether SWAPO can match its 75-percent haul at the last election.

-SAPA

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