- Today will feel longer than most other days, as Namibians and the various political parties wait anxiously for the results of the two-day presidential and general elections.
Counting at polling stations is scheduled to start at 08h00, with the final result only expected to be officially confirmed by tomorrow - although a clear indication of the outcome should emerge by this evening.
Early results announced this morning are unlikely to shed much light on the final outcome - they will be from the smaller constituencies - and any attempt to use them to project the final composition of Parliament would be pointless. Early results from the South and East will give little guidance as to the eventual outcome.
As always the key areas will be the most populous regions such as Ohangwena (with more than 102 000 registered voters), Omusati (109 000 voters), Oshikoto (77 000 voters) and Oshana (82 000 voters).
Many Namibians will be glued to NBC radio this morning with the results expected to start trickling in from around 11h00. Those with Internet access can visit the Electoral Commission's website (www.ecn.gov.na) for quicker updates.
There is little suspense as to who will emerge the winner. The ruling party Swapo is expected to sweep back into parliament with a handsome majority. All that is in doubt is how big that majority will be.
The main tension will be among the other eight parties. Even the most seasoned political observers have been reluctant to predict how the two main opposition parties, the Congress of Democrats (CoD) and the DTA of Namibia will fare.
Some expect the CoD to hold its ground, or increase its support. Others have predicted that the party might see a drop in its support. Similar views have been expressed about the DTA which has seen a dramatic drop-off in its numbers with each successive election. The United Democratic Front (UDF) is generally predicted to retain its traditional support base.
Newcomers NUDO and the Republican Party (RP) joined the election fray with high hopes. They have made their presence felt in the political arena but whether this will translate into ballot-box power remains to be seen.
SWANU and MAG appear unlikely to make any inroads. Veteran politician and MAG leader Kosie Pretorius, who has filled his party's sole seat in parliament, has run an understated campaign. It is likely that his already small support base might be eroded by the RP.
There was a significant drop in the number of voters who cast their ballots yesterday, compared to the long queues at all polling stations on Monday. Most polling stations at the major towns Swakopmund, Keetmanshoop, Mariental, Karasburg, Tsumeb, Outjo, Usakos, Karibib, Rundu, and even parts of the North, were empty for most of yesterday.
Polling stations in the capital Windhoek, at the coast and in the South were reported to be quiet by early yesterday evening, although officials were expecting a last-minute rush. Presiding officers in Namibia's most populous suburb, Katutura, said they expected to stay open until around 23h00 last night to allow people who had started queuing before 21h00 to vote.
The Electoral Commission is predicting a turnout of around 75 percent of registered voters. However, some analysts said that despite long queues on Monday, turnout was unlikely to reach the 61 percent seen in the last presidential and parliamentary polls in 1999.
- I think turnout is going to be low, and I think the whole thing is going to turn into a real crisis for the opposition, Christiaan Keulder of the Institute for Public Policy Research told Reuters. "I think what you are going to get this time is further fragmentation of the opposition vote," he said.
Nonetheless Commission Chairman Victor Tonchi remains optimistic. He says the turnout has been beyond expectation despite the "minor computer glitches" that delayed voting by up to two hours at some polling stations on Monday.
He expects "more or less the same turnout as in 1999", when around 76 percent voted. Mr Tonchi said the ECN would review the tendered ballot system after the election, as it slowed down the pace of voting.
The Namibia Non-Governmental Organisation Forum (Nangof) said the voter turnout was low yesterday and called on the ECN to consider having only one day of voting in future.
The Electoral Commission registered 977,742 voters - meaning that a political party needs around 10,180 votes to win one seat in Parliament if there is a turnout of 76 percent. This could mean bad news for the likes of SWANU, MAG and the Namibia Democratic Movement for Change, who have failed to reach the 10,000 mark in the past.
NUDO needs to collect only half of all votes in its strongholds Aminius (with 6,403 registered voters), Epukiro (2,294 voters), Otjinene (4,456 voters), Otjombinde (2,078 voters) and Steinhausen (4,667) to get two seats in Parliament, but it did not do as well as expected in the local and regional elections in that part of Namibia.
By Christof Maletsky, Jean Sutherland and Tabby Moyo
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