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Flipside - ECN Must Account

ECN Must Account

Chris Jacobie

NAMIBIANS are poor in remembering, but masters in forgetting.
Three decades ago Namibians did not know that the implementation of UN-Resolution 435 will on 1 April explode in a senseless Nine Day War, but that seven months later hundreds and thousands of Namibians would stand in long lines for many hours to vote as one to become one.
The 2019 elections celebrate 30 years since the 1989 Independence elections and the Constitutional Process that started on 8 December 1989 that hastened Independence on 21 March 1990 and set the nation on its destiny of peace and stability that more than half the population of the world does not enjoy today.
The registration-debacle involving the Landless People’s Movement(LPM), the Electoral Commission of Namibia(ECN) and the Deputy Minister of Industrial; Development, Veikko Nekundi, can be the most important elections shots fired in an election race that is still nearly a year away.
Namibians will do well to thank the Landless Peoples Movement (LPM) for registering as a political party which also lead to the subsequent revelations of alleged shortcomings in their application to the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN).
However, the accused of wrongdoing should not be the young political party of Bernardus Swartbooi, nor the equally youthful former Swartbooi-colleague and Swapo-comrade, Veiko Nekundi, who legitimately as a member of the public, objected to names included on the LPM-list.
The failure is with the ECN, which makes matters worse by the answers they supply in an effort to evade accountability or they really do not know that ultimately they are accountable to the Constitution and by implication the Namibian nation.
When the President of Namibia, Dr Hage Geingob, requires accountability, it includes the commission and directorate of elections. Being a statutory body and overseeing elections of all sorts, does not mean the institution is independent from Namibia, but must make sure that the integrity of Namibia is protected at all times.
The LPM registration and the Nekundi-protest is both constitutional duty of the highest order and one of the rare opportunities for Namibia to correct and set the sails to weather election storms and keep democracy in safe and stable waters.
The biggest challenge and a challenge worthwhile to take up, is for the ECN and Directorate of Elections to conduct the whole election process in such a way that the losers in democratic contests must feel that they lost fairly. It is equally important that winners must not doubt their majorities.
The democratic crises besetting the DRC, the unrest in Zimbabwe, flaring up in Madagascar, the bitter division in Britain and the Brexit vote, as well as the unprecedented division in the United States of America have at its core that losers of democratic contests do not only reject the outcomes of their election, but attempt everything to undo it, because they did not trust the processes and therefore not the outcomes.
The ECN in Namibia must prevent an erosion of trust at all cost.
There are a thousand other reasons why communities are rising in public unrest and protest, but it will always go back to people who feel ignored, neglected and not taken seriously by those in office, and many times they feel that bad and incompetent officials is forced upon them.
The ECN can play a monumental role in preparing the field for a democratic contest where the goalposts are in the same place and at the same distance from the kick-off spot.
There is no doubt that upon reflection, 2019 will be as challenging as 1989 – thirty years ago. Namibians might have short memories. Namibian Independence did not happen out of the blue on 21 March 1990, but emerged in 1989 when first, the Mount Etjo peace accord silenced the last guns of the bloody 1 April fiasco.
This was followed by the registration of voters, elections campaigns in dangerous times where landmines were still lurking in war zones and eventual elections where friend and foe voted for parties who looked at each other over a barrel of a gun, the acceptance of an election result and the starting of the writing of the Constitution on 8 December 1989, bringing military and political enemies under one roof to agree on a contract of peace towards development and nationhood. The thirty years that made Namibia is the Thirty that challenge the future.
There were no more bitter exchanges and political venom spit than the 1989 election campaign and Namibians will serve themselves and the nation well to remember that, regardless of the dirtiest of fights, the outcome was that opponents took hands towards nationhood on 21 March 1989.
Every election after the RES 435 election was a product of Namibians, and even with all its shortcomings, it held together.
So it must be in 2019, and the ECN must not only be accountable, but proud to lead the historic elections and improve on the image of those election a long, long time ago under international supervision in 1989.
It must also be remembered that the only elections – since Independence – that were not contested, were the 2014 elections.
Elections must stabilise and not polarise.
The LPM application and the Nekundi-protest is not a party political matter, but a matter of good citizenship that deserves to be supported and should encourage the electoral bodies to make it easy for parties to register and to guarantee oversight.
The ECN can be sure that this time around they will have no more excuses left and must make sure that they do not only have to account, but do its duty towards the constitution.
The LPM-registration should be a wake-up call, not a reason to point fingers.

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