by Sakeus Iikela
The Electoral Commission of Namibia might have trouble maintaining physical distancing of people during the counting and verification of votes in the upcoming regional and local authority elections scheduled for November this year.
The ECN’s chief electoral officer, Theo Mujoro, says this is one of the challenges the commission faces in its attempt to organise the upcoming elections under the unfamiliar circumstances of a pandemic.
“The counting and verification of votes requires that other people would want to see what you are doing. I think that is one of the things that we will have trouble [with] maintaining the required physical distancing between persons,” Mujoro said in Windhoek on Wednesday at a briefing of civil society organisations on the ECN’s preparedness for the elections.
The ECN also briefed the civil society organisations on the electoral calendar and the commission’s Covid-19 mitigation strategy, which is aimed at minimising the spread of the coronavirus during the conduct of the elections.
Mujoro said the ECN has designed its Covid-19 mitigation plan on the premise that a high number of voters would be turning up to cast votes at polling stations.
He said all participants in events to precede the elections would be required to comply with the national guidelines against the spread of the novel coronavirus, such as the mandatory wearing of face masks and the regular sanitising of hands.
This would include all events from the registration of voters to polling day.
Those who contravene the measures would be required to leave electoral venues, he said. He added that the ECN “is under no illusion that this is going to be an easy task”.
Mujoro also said it would serve no purpose to postpone the elections given the probability that the coronavirus pandemic might not go away.
“Nobody expected this. We had no idea that we will be faced with this pandemic, therefore we rely on our stakeholders to adhere to and implement the measures set out in our mitigation strategy […] the nature of conducting all electoral processes is designed in such a manner that you will find people gathered in one area in close proximity and that is unfortunately the fertile ground for Covid-19,” Mujoro said.