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Cablegate: Namibia: Swapo Wins Again Amidst an Opposition Boycott

VZCZCXRO1469
PP RUEHBZ RUEHDU RUEHJO RUEHMR RUEHRN
DE RUEHWD #0345/01 3101556
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 051556Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY WINDHOEK
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 0138
INFO RUCNSAD/SOUTHERN AFRICAN DEVELOPMENT COMMUNITY PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 WINDHOEK 000345

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PHUM WA
SUBJECT: NAMIBIA: SWAPO WINS AGAIN AMIDST AN OPPOSITION BOYCOTT

REF: WINDHOEK 303

- - - -
Summary
- - - -

1. (SBU) As it has in previous by-elections this year, the ruling
SWAPO party retained control of the Tobias Hainyeko Constituency
seat with an overwhelming victory. The October 31 by-election
became necessary when SWAPO expelled the previous Tobias Hainyeko
Councilor, Erasmus Hendjala, from the party. Hendjala promptly
joined the recently formed Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP)
party. The run-up to the election was marred by SWAPO supporters
intimidating opposition party supporters and blocking opposition
rallies, as well as allegations of undue SWAPO influence over the
Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN). Three opposition political
parties, including RDP, withdrew in protest from the contest on
October 28, claiming the electoral registration process had been
unfair. One positive sign coming out of the Tobias Hainyeko
by-election process is that the police appeared determined to manage
political violence. End Summary

- - - - - - - - - - -
The Election Results
- - - - - - - - - - -

2. (SBU) Only two of the five parties that had originally submitted
candidates participated in the Tobias Hainyeko by-election on
October 31. The ruling SWAPO party received 5529 votes and the newly
formed All People's Party (APP), in its first election outing,
received 164 votes. Only about 23 percent of total registered
voters for the constituency participated in the by-election. While
the voter turnout was quite low (and much less than in the 2004
general election), such low turnout is not unusual for a
by-election. Despite many opposition complaints against the ECN's
handling of the pre-election process, the voting on October 31 was
conducted without incident. No party has contested the preliminary
results. The SWAPO candidate, Zulu Shitongeni, will replace Erasmus
Hendjala, the former councilor expelled from SWAPO after being
accused of being a sympathizer of the RDP party.

- - - - - - - - - - -
The Election Process
- - - - - - - - - - -

3. (SBU) Five political parties, including the ruling SWAPO party,
the RDP, the National Unity Democratic Organization (NUDO) party,
the Republican Party (RP), and the All Peoples Party (APP)
registered candidates for the by-election for the Tobias Hainyeko
constituency seat of the Khomas regional government. Tobias
Hainyeko comprises several informal settlements on the outskirts of
Windhoek. It is regarded as the biggest electoral constituency in
the country, with an estimated 60,000 residents and 24,855
registered voters. All five political parties were able to mount
some level of campaign activities, but several RDP activities were
disrupted by SWAPO party supporters and activists.

4. (SBU) RDP, NUDO and the RP on October 28 decided to withdraw from
the election, three days before the vote. The three opposition
parties cited intimidation against their supporters by ruling party
supporters, and a flawed electoral process as the reasons for their
decision. The three boycotting parties claimed that the Electoral
Commission of Namibia (ECN) had provided insufficient time (just 5
days) for constituents to register for the by-election. They also
alleged that the ECN had not provided adequate time and information
prior to the registration period to inform voters about the
registration process. Furthermore, the parties charged that the
dissemination of registration announcements only in English and
Oshiwambo disenfranchised many voters who do not speak either
language. (Note: SWAPO's support is strongest amongst Oshiwambo
speakers. End Note). The parties also accused the ECN of not
informing them about where the supplemental registrations would take
place.

5. (SBU) On October 29, opposition party leaders, three from the RP
and one from the RDP were arrested as they were distributing flyers
to encourage their supporters to boycott the Tobias Hainyeko
by-election. The ECN claimed that the opposition party leaders were
contravening the Namibian Electoral Act by discouraging voters from
exercising their democratic right to choose their representatives.
The case has been forwarded to the Prosecutor General's Office for a
decision on whether to prosecute. (Note: The Legal Assistance
Center, a respected human rights non-governmental organization, has
stated that the opposition parties were in fact permitted under
Namibian law to encourage people not to vote, as long as they did
not physically prevent or intimidate people from doing so. End
Note).

6. (SBU) Political tensions in Tobias Hainyeko had started months
earlier. On May 10, police had to escort RDP supporters from the
Okuryangava settlement of Windhoek because SWAPO party supporters
threatened the RDP supporters with violence if they did not leave.


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