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Electoral Symposium 2014

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Electoral Symposium

Electoral Symposium for 2014

Raising greater awareness and commitment to free, fair and credible 2014 for presidential and national assembly elections.

Presented By: Prof.Paul J. Isaak, Director of elections

Date: 21 October 2014 at Election House

Namibia Constitution: Core issue

Before stating the overall objective of this Electoral Symposium allow me to start with core issues why we are here today. Thereafter we will look at the overall objectives as outlined in the agenda and programme. It is my considered opinion that the core business of the Electoral Commission of Namibia is grounded on two articles of The Constitution of the Republic of Namibian.

 

Article 17.1 Political Activity

“All citizens shall have the right to participate in peaceful political activity intended to influence the composition and policies of the Government. All citizens shall have the right to form and join political parties and; subject to such qualifications prescribed by law as are necessary in a democratic society to participate in the conduct of public affairs, whether directly or through freely chosen representatives

Let me briefly explicate the importance of this article in the life of Namibian democracy.

It is a fundamental right and freedom of all Namibians to be engaged in political activities. There are three key aspects to it:

  1. Namibian citizens shall have the right to participate in peaceful political activities. This fundamental right and freedom cannot be denied to Namibians.
  2. All citizens shall have the right to form and join political parties…and such formations are necessary in a democratic society, and
  3. a democratic society such as Namibia has the constitutional right and freedom to participate in the conduct of public affairs, whether directly or through freely chosen representatives.

These are the three fundamental rights and as such they are not merely freedoms and rights but most importantly, they cannot be taken away from Namibians. However, Article 17 should be read in light of Article 131.

 

Article 131: Entrenchment of Fundamental Rights and Freedoms.

“No repeal or amendment of any of the provisions of Chapter 3 hereof, in so far as such repeal or amendment diminishes or detracts from the fundamental rights and freedoms contained and defined in that Chapter, shall be permissible under this Constitution, and no such purported repeal or amendment shall be valid or have any force or effect.” In short, so long as we shall enjoy the Republic of Namibia we shall uphold Article 17 and be engaged in political activities. That right and freedom is entrenched.

Now, to the given topic: The stated the overall objective of this Symposium to raise greater awareness and commitment to free, fair and credible 2014 elections among the stakeholders and the nation at large. The specific objectives of the symposium are fourfold, namely, to:

Symposium Objectives

  1. To popularize the 2014 Presidential and National Assembly Elections;
  2. To raise awareness and commitment to the Code of Conduct for political parties;
  3. To promote the use of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs); and
  4. To launch the National Voter Education policy.

Background of the Objectives

The year 2014 has turned out to be one of the busiest year ever for the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN). If you can recall, the year started off with the third General Registration of Voters (GRV) at the beginning of this year, from 15th January to 2nd March, and you will agree with me that it was a successful exercise where more than 93% present of eligible voters were registered.

Thereafter, a new voters’ register was compiled to replace the old one. The GRV was followed by a constituency by-election in Ohangwena, followed two Local Authority by-elections in Bukalo and Otjinene in the Zambezi and Otjozondjupa regions, respectively.

And in making is still two another constituency by-elections scheduled to take place at Endola on 7 November 2014 in the Ohangwena region and Windhoek-West on 14 November 2014 in the Khomas region during November.

We have recently just concluded the Supplementary Registration of Voters for two last-mentioned constituency elections, which as we all know by now, will be followed by the Presidential and National Assembly elections which are scheduled to take place on 28 November 2014. That’s a mouthful, but that is the true reflection of just how busy the ECN has been this year.

Objectives

With all those registration and polling processes having already been successfully executed, it is absolutely important for us to guard against becoming complacent. I know it is hard to keep the attention of the nation alert and focused throughout the year, but it is exactly what is expected of us. In fact it is the main reason why we are gathered here this morning – to energize ourselves and to keep the nation’s attention super focused on the upcoming elections in November – hence the need to popularize the upcoming Presidential and National Assembly elections. This is one of the specific objectives of this symposium.

The second specific objective of this symposium is to raise awareness and commitment to the Code of Conduct for political parties. As stated in my introduction the Code of Conduct must be read against Articles 17 and 131. Code of Conduct for all Political Parties is a requirement and is also stimulated in Section 145 of the Electoral Act, Act 5 of 2014.

It is absolutely necessary that all contestants subscribe to the Code of Conduct and must be guided and bound by the agreed rules of the game, which are commonly referred to as the Code of Conduct.

The third specific objective of the symposium is the promotion of the Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs). The cardinal reason for introducing the EVM technologies is to improve our electoral process. Namibia will become the first country in Africa to use EVMs in national elections, but the EVM technology has long been used in other countries, including the world’s largest known democracy, India, where the EVMs were developed.

Electronic Voting Machines

The ECN opted for the EVMs from India for various reasons, including the following:

Enhanced speed and accuracy of the counting process.

The tabulation of results is not only much faster, it also eliminates or at least minimizes the possibility of human error during the counting process.

EVMs are cost effective in the sense that huge savings will be realized in the long run because the machines can be re-used in many elections without the need to print more than a million ballot papers.

There will be no invalid or rejected votes under the EVM system.

The EVMs are stand-alone machines which are tamper-proof and because they are not connected to other electronic devices, it prevents possible intrusion during electronic transmission of results.

The EVMs user-friendly in that they are simple to use by the ordinary citizens.

Lastly, the fourth specific objective of this symposium is to launch the National Voter Education Policy. The ECN has been spearheading the Voter and Civic Education for many years and today we are consolidating the process by launching the National Voter Education Policy. That is a remarkable achievement and congratulation to the staff of the Democracy Building Unit and Voter Education.

Conclusion

I would like to thank everyone who is attending this symposium this morning. Elections are indispensable to representative democracy. Therefore, let us all get involved in the promotion of free, fair, transparent and credible elections in order to consolidate our democracy.

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