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Cablegate: Namibia: Swapo Asserts Strength in Local Vote

DE RUEHWD #0303 2741101
P 301101Z SEP 08



E.O. 12958: N/A

1. (SBU) The Rally for Democracy and Progress' (RDP) second
electoral challenge to Namibia's ruling and dominant South
West African Peoples Organization (SWAPO) fell considerably
short of expectations on September 26. RDP only managed to
win 123 votes to SWAPO's 1299 votes in the election for seven
town council members in the small northern town of Omuthiya.
Two other opposition parties, the Congress of Democrats (COD)
and Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA) picked up 26 and 5
votes respectively. The election gives SWAPO six of the
seven town council seats, while RDP will control one.

2. (SBU) Both SWAPO and RDP campaigned intensely in
Omuthiya. RDP leaders accused SWAPO supporters of using
intimidation and violence in the run up to the election. The
elections were first slated for February, but postponed until
May, and then postponed a second time to September 26. The
delays were mainly due to discrepancies in voter lists and
the registration of both candidates and voters. Despite the
administrative problems 82 percent of voters turned out on
election day. While both parties made declarations of
alleged irregularities on September 26, both seemed to be
generally satisfied that the election had been free and fair.

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3. (SBU) This was RDP's second election since long-time
SWAPO insider Hidipo Hamutenya formed the party in November
2007. The party suffered a similar defeat in a March
regional council by-election for the Eenhana Constituency in
Ohangwena region. RDP managed only 289 votes to SWAPO's 4193
in that election. RDP supporters also alleged that SWAPO
used intimidation and violence in the Eenhana election. The
only other election since November 2007, which RDP did not
contest, saw no allegations of politically motivated

- - - -
- - - -

4. (SBU) Hamutenya's popularity and his ties to the Omuthiya
region (where he owns property) were thought to give RDP a
strong chance to pull votes from SWAPO in the September 26
vote. But voters in northern Namibia have a strong
sentimental attachment to SWAPO. Northerners (and even more
specifically the Oshivambo region where Omuthiya is located)
bore the brunt of the struggle for independence from South
Africa, and SWAPO is widely viewed as their liberating party.
Communities in northern Namibia are generally considered very
conservative and traditionally intolerant of dissent, making
it difficult even for someone of Hamutenya's stature to
organize in the region. Opposition party supporters in
northern Namibia are generally stigmatized and ostracized
from their communities. It appears RDP simply pulled votes
from the traditional opposition parties but few from SWAPO.

5. (SBU) It now appears that RDP's challenge to SWAPO ) if
it can mount an effective one - will have to come from the
more urban areas around the country. RDP will have its first
chance at an "urban election" on October 31. That is the
date of the next scheduled election in Tobias Hainyeko
constituency, an informal settlement outside Windhoek. The
RDP has its work cut out for it, as Tobias Hainyeko has
tended to heavily favor SWAPO in the past. End Comment.

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