SWAPO Members 'Want Ward System'
Published February 27th 2003 in The Namibian (Windhoek)

SWAPO pushed through the party list system for upcoming local authority elections against the wishes of the majority of its supporters, according to a study by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR).

The research body says in its latest paper on elections, electoral systems and the gender quota that 59 per cent of Swapo supporters interviewed preferred a candidate who lived among them.

They also favoured a ward system at local authority level.

The IPPR conducted a survey of 2 000 Namibians of voting age (18 years and older) in the second half of last year.

People across the country were interviewed face-to-face.

The survey says 51 per cent of all interviewees preferred a ward system, while 34 per cent opted to vote on party list lines.

"Contrary to our initial expectation, based on the statements by the leaders of the different parties, the majority of Swapo party supporters (59 per cent) indicated they would rather vote for a candidate who lives among them, compared with only 33 per cent who would rather vote for a party list," IPPR said.

It says the overall impression is that the respondents took an opposite view to that of their leaders.

"One should, however, interpret these findings cautiously, since the margin of difference between those supporting the one option rather than the other is not that great," the IPPR cautions.

Late last year Swapo pushed through amendments to the Local Authority Act to postpone municipal elections that were expected to take place early this year and to maintain the proportional representation system.

Swapo argued that the party list system was the trend among most democracies across the world as it was fairer than a winner-takes-all system.

Local and regional elections are likely to be held at the end of this year, although no dates have been announced.

The IPPR study also found that the overwhelming majority (90 per cent) of Namibians believe it is important to vote during elections while 64 per cent indicated it was important to have opposition parties participating in the political process.

"It is somewhat disconcerting, however, that 17 per cent of respondents believed multi-party elections are not important. Even more respondents (20 per cent) indicated opposition parties are 'not important at all', while a further 15 per cent indicated opposition parties are only 'somewhat important' for a country like Namibia," the research group says.

It warns that "People who are concerned about the future of democracy" in the country should take note of the responses by the interviewees.