Namibia begins vote count

Governing party Swapo is expected to win presiential and parliamentary elections.

    Final results from the polls are not
    expected until Wednesday [AFP]

    Yet the vote may see the Swapo's long hold on power in the southern African desert nation weakening with the emergence of a new opposition party, the Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP).

    The RDP, the main opposition party headed by Hidipo Hamutenya, a former foreign minister, is capitalising on growing dissatisfaction with Swapo after a spate of corruption scandals, including one involving the son of China's president.

    'Nepotism and corruption'

    Emile van Zyl, executive director of research for financial services company Simonis Storm Securities, said: "If you enjoy an absolute majority with no resistance from opposition for too long, problems such as nepotism and corruption may become major issues."

    "If you enjoy an absolute majority with no resistance from opposition for too long, problems such as nepotism and corruption may become major issues"

    Emile van Zyl,
    executive director of research at Storm Securities

    He said a stronger opposition would be good for the country as long as it does not lead to instability.

    Swapo and the RDP are the biggest of the 14 parties contesting the election, with the latter claiming about 250,000 supporters from an estimated 1.1 million voters.

    Analysts believe that a landslide victory for Swapo, which won the last elections with 75 per cent of the vote, may be less convincing this time round.

    "While the RDP won't be able to challenge Swapo's rule, it will be able to take a few votes, minimizing the percentage of parliamentary seats the former liberation movement has," Judy Smith-Hohn, from the South African-based Institute for Security Studies, said.

    There were clashes between Swapo and the RDP supporters prior to the poll.

    High unemployment

    Namibia, a former German colony that was governed by neighbouring South Africa during the apartheid era, is seen as a peaceful and stable democracy. 

    Although rich in diamond and uranium deposits, about 40 per cent of  the nearly two million Namibians live below the poverty line.

    Unemployment is high and Aids has had a devastating effect especially on the indigenous San Bushmen.

    But the government has been praised for its sound economic policies and for making strides in broadening access to education and health care.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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