AU, Southern Africa bloc laud Namibia's election, but fault e-vote problems

A last group of voters wait in line to vote at a polling station in Katutura, a township of Windhoek, capital of Namibia on November 28, 2014

THE African Union on Sunday applauded Namibia’s general elections as free and fair - even as they criticised the procedure behind Africa’s first nation-wide e-vote.

Results from the Friday election were still being verified Sunday, with the ruling SWAPO party and its presidential candidate Hage Geingob holding a commanding lead.

Ambassador Fatuma Ndangiza, head of the AU election observer mission, gave Namibia a thumbs up for conducting the elections in “a peaceful environment, free from violence and intimidation”.

But she suggested Namibia electoral commission “consider simplifying polling station procedures” and ensuring staff were trained in how the electronic voting machines worked.

This after opposition parties complained that thousands of voters were turned away from polling stations Friday because of technical difficulties.

Ndangiza said the elections were conducted in a manner that allowed Namibians to express their will freely and in a credible and transparent manner.

Observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) also gave the vote their stamp of approval.

Representing the regional bloc, South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane admitted there had been delays at several polling stations Friday over difficulties with the voting machines.

But she said that everyone should accept the outcome and praised the high voter turnout.

“This is proof that the people of Namibia love their country and it is an excellent example which serves to deepen democracy in Namibia and the SADC region,” she said.

Opposition parties had launched an 11th-hour court challenge just days before the election to stop the electronic vote from going ahead, saying the use of the voting machines could facilitate vote rigging.

But the Windhoek High Court dismissed the application.

Around 1.2 million Namibians were eligible to vote at nearly 4,000 electronic voting places across the vast desert nation.

Other African nations have run pilot or limited e-voting, but none have done so on this scale.

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