Opposition expresses discontent over ballot paper

By Maria Kandjungu

OPPOSITION parties have expressed their lack of confidence in the ballot paper voting system for the November regional councils and local authority elections saying the old voting system is prone to exploitation.

The opposition, most of whom have previously accused the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) and the ruling Swapo party of rigging and manipulating election results by using electronic voting machines (EVMs) without VVPAT, noted that while the use of ballot paper may now be the lesser evil of the two, they do not think they stand a better  chance against manipulation and rigging.

Popular Democratic Movement secretary general, Manuel Ngaringombe, said the ballot paper system is a short cut by ECN, that parties are forced to support.

“They will rig the election with or without ballots, in fact ballots are even worse. It’s a moral issue and Swapo has none. We don’t trust the system. We have agreed to the use of ballots because we understand under the current circumstances and reasons provided by ECN, we are unable to get the verifiable paper trail. But as a party, we have never advocated for the use of ballots. We want the EVMs but with verifiable paper audited [VVPAT]. The ballot papers have a history of serious rigging of elections and corruption,” he said.

While all political parties have consented to the decision by ECN to use the old ballot paper system for the forthcoming elections, most opposition members said they feel forced into the decision as there is no better alternative.

“At this stage ballots are better than EVMs and that is a forced direction that has been proclaimed by ECN who are not ready to bring paper trail,” Edson Isaaks, the operative secretary for the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) told Confidente adding that the system however leaves a lot to be desired.

“We know it is not a process without flaws. We already had issues with the Otjiwarongo election. So, we are not entirely confident,” he added.

Rally for Democracy and Progress (RDP) president Mike Kavekotora who has been a vocal advocate against the use of EVMs also agreed that although they welcome the use of ballot papers, they still fear manipulation.

“The main reason we have been vocal against EVMs is because they have effectively wiped out evidence and if we want to take matters to court and challenge the results, we have no proof. But the ballots on the other hand have a host of evidence that can serve as proof to convince a court of manipulation,” Kavekotora said.

He added that his party; “ultimately wants to do away with the whole electronic voting system because even with paper trail, in a sophisticated society, they can be manipulated. We want to get rid of that whole system. It cannot be trusted, and other countries are not using it because they do not trust it”.

Unlike the opposition parties, ruling Swapo party spokesperson Hilma Nikanor, shrugged off questions regarding the use of ballots saying that whichever system ECN picks, Swapo will emerge victorious.

“The bringing of EVMs was never a Swapo thing. The opposition asked for the electronic voting system. So, to say Swapo won through rigging of elections… we reject that, as we always have,” Nikanor said.

She added that her party has gone through both the electronic and manual voting systems and always emerged as winners and are confident that they will win the upcoming election regardless of voting system used.

“Whatever system ECN brings, we are ready. Swapo is a mass-based party and a people’s party… We have no history of rigging elections and there is no reason to be relieved or concerned because, it has never been a challenge,” Nikanor added further.