SWAPO set to win Namibia poll

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First results from Namibian elections trickled in yesterday, but too few to show if a breakaway opposition faction would end the two-thirds majority in parliament that the ruling party has held since 1995.
 


Results were confirmed from around 48 000 of 1.18 million registered voters in the arid state, which is one of Africa’s wealthier states because of diamond and uranium exports but has suffered heavily from the global downturn.
 
First results gave 62% of parliamentary votes to the South West Africa People’s Organisation, a former guerrilla movement that has led since independence in 1990 and is set to keep power for five more years and to retain the presidency.
 
In second place with 11% was the Rally for Democracy and Progress, which split from the ruling party in 2007 and accused SWAPO in its campaign of failing to do enough on unemployment, health and education.
 
Opposition parties in the country of 2.2 million, which is bigger than Turkey, hope to at least deprive SWAPO of the two-thirds majority needed to be able to change the constitution.
 
Delays in releasing results after polls closed last Saturday have been criticised by observers and opposition parties who say there were voting and counting irregularities which the electoral commission failed to address.
 
Six opposition parties said they would seek legal advice to determine if the election was legitimate.
 
"We would consider approaching the high court in order to verify the legitimacy of these elections," Henk Mudge, president of the Republican Party told a news conference.
 
 
Allegations dismissed
 
 
But the electoral commission dismissed the allegations.
 
"It’s a transparent process with party agents and observers on site. Our target is still to announce results tomorrow," its director, Moses Ndjarakana, told Reuters.
 
Observers from the Southern African Development Community reported discrepancies in the voters’ roll, that media cover had not been balanced and that some parties lacked funds to campaign, but said that would not affect the outcome.
 
Votes are counted at polling stations and posted outside to ensure transparency after opposition complaints in 2004.
 
As in other southern African countries, from Angola to Zimbabwe to Mozambique to South Africa, the former liberation movement has kept a tenacious hold on power, but it has faced a greater challenge since its internal split.
 
The RDP appeared to have taken many votes from SWAPO’s other rivals and looked set to become the official opposition, political analysts said.
 
"It’s clear we will have a strong opposition party. That will change the dynamics of politics in Namibia," said Graham Hopwood, director of the Institute for Public Policy Research.
 
In the presidential vote, President Hifikepunye Pohamba led with 63%, with RDP’s Hidipo Hamutenya taking 12%.
 
Lying between economic powerhouse South Africa and oil-producing Angola, Namibia has enjoyed a long period of political and economic prosperity.
 
But the economy in Namibia, a diamond producer and home to 10%of the world’s uranium output, is expected to contract by 0.6% in 2009, before recovering in 2010 on higher commodity prices and a rise in mining output.
 
Fourteen parties were contesting the election and 12 presidential candidates were listed.