News and Information

'Lies, lies' and damn truth ECN admits hitches, but says no chaos
March 16, 2005


THE Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) yesterday accused the media of spreading "lies" about the nature of discrepancies emerging from the recount of ballots cast in November's National Assembly election.

Terming the reports "unfortunate", ECN Chairperson Victor Tonchi said the commission wanted to confine the information being disseminated about the recount to "curb the fear spread to the public that there was chaos".

Today marks the fourth and final day for the hundreds of officials counting the votes and observing the recount.

The ECN called a press conference yesterday to give an update on the recount.

Party representatives for the Republican Party and the Congress of Democrats, who won the right to a recount in the High Court last week, were present at the conference, as were representatives of Swapo and the DTA.

The ECN confirmed that the contents of 40 waterlogged ballot boxes (mostly from the Ohangwena Region) had now become the subject of a forensic investigation, but maintained that reports of "missing" ballot boxes and accompanying verification documents were untrue.

Sources however continued to insist yesterday that the boxes of some constituencies had not been located, and that several other boxes did not contain identification tags other than a serial number to indicate where they came from.

"Of course there will be some discrepancies.

These are the realities we will have to face," Tonchi said.

"We are sure that all the material is there."

He said the ECN would await a forensic report before deciding whether the ballots in the waterlogged boxes would be part of the recount.

Because the ballots were marked with a pencil, the vote is still visible despite getting wet.

However, the secret stamp of the ECN does not appear to be on many of the ballots in these boxes.

This was confirmed by Tonchi.

It has not been concluded whether the secret stamp was "washed off" or whether they were ever stamped.

Tonchi said it was possible that the boxes got wet while being transported, considering that the election took place during the rainy season.

"If some are wet, we will make a decision.

The returning officers make a lot of decisions, whether or not a ballot should be part of the election or not.

It doesn't mean if something is invalid the whole process is invalid," he said when asked by the media what would happen if the ballots from these boxes were not included.

In his capacity as a party agent for Swapo, leader of the Swapo Youth League Paulus Kapia yesterday asked the commission that journalists identify themselves before posing questions to the commission.

Tonchi told him this was not necessary, as most of the journalists were known to them.

The ECN also said that it had been difficult to distinguish tendered votes from ordinary votes, as it appeared the tendered votes had been placed in the same box as ordinary votes after the November counting.

ECN 'IN CONTROL' On reports that differences in the results from the recount and those of the November account had already surfaced, Tonchi said this could not be confirmed because the ECN were not making comparisons.

As far as the poll body was concerned, he said, the November results had no bearing on the recount process as the High Court had declared last year's results null and void.

"It is important at this stage of the process to ensure the general public that the commission is in full control of the exercise along with the political parties," said Tonchi.

"We are an intelligent commission."

The ECN said it was satisfied with how the exercise had gone and the progress that had been made in the first two days.

"As in any other operation of this magnitude, our returning officers have met a number of challenges during the recount exercise.

We must underline that is a process.

There is a lot of work in progress.

This is not a walkover, it is still a difficult process," Tonchi stressed.

However the ECN remains confident that they will finish the count by the end of today because officials have been working in shifts around-the-clock to reach that target.

It is not yet known when the results will be made public.

Tonchi said that these would only be released once they were all finalised.

"I think it is important that we have have a complete picture," he said.

COUNT IN FULL SWING By yesterday morning 40 out of 108 constituencies had been counted.

Only final results for the Kunene and Otjozondjupa regions had been produced by yesterday, with the count of the Caprivi nearly done and the Kavango, Khomas, Ohangwena, Omaheke, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto still in progress at that time.

All votes cast abroad have been tallied.

These votes (around 834) had not been taken into consideration when the final election result was announced last year, because the ECN maintained they would not have affected the result after all the regions votes were already tallied.

The counting of the Erongo, Hardap and Karas regions started early yesterday morning.

The ECN could not confirm reports that there was 2 000 less votes for the Otjozondjupa Region compared to November's results, again saying they were not making comparisons.

NOT FIVE STAR The ECN yesterday also appeared miffed about reports on the accommodation conditions of election officials.

ECN officials said the venues at the Windhoek Showgrounds were the best available in the City to conduct an exercise of this nature.

Tonchi said the count had been made difficult by the confined space people had to work in, which also affected the storage of the around 2 300 ballot boxes.

Around 800 people have had to cram their mattresses and bedding into the counting venues and share limited toilet facilities at the showgrounds.

"It is not a five star hotel, but you have never complained over the years when you have been coming to the show about inhuman facilities," contended Tonchi.

"We have tried our best to ensure this recount is done with a comfort of some sort."

Tonchi said officials had been provided with enough food, water and a place to sleep.

He stressed that it was important that the recount be done in a single, confined area.

RECOUNT 'WORTHWHILE' RP leader Henk Mudge said yesterday that the recount had so far been a very "worthwhile exercise".

He said the court ruling was based on only a few discrepancies the parties had picked up from documents provided to them, but that a whole lot more had emerged over the last few days.

"Whether we gain or lose seats is not important to us.

This is not about political gain or because we are being opportunistic.

We want an amicable solution," said Mudge.

"We are excited about what we have found and we are pleased that we did it [challenged the results]."


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