The Electoral Commission of Namibia released provisional figures for the number of registered voters in Namibia on March 14 2014, following the General Registration of Voters (GRV) from January 15 to March 2 2014.
According to the ECN, a total of 1,158,925 voters registered within Namibia, while 3,441 voters registered at Namibia’s foreign missions. This gives a grand total of 1,162,366 voters registered. A period of supplementary registration, due in September this year, will give citizens who missed out a final chance to register before national elections are expected to take place at the end of November 2014.
Among factors highlighted by the ECN was the high level of young people who registered. Some 44 percent of those registered were reported to be between the ages of 18 and 32. People born after Independence Day 1990, the so-called ‘born-frees’, account for almost 20 percent of registered voters. Some 75,835 more women than men registered with the split being 53 percent in favour of the female gender.
The ECN detected that 1,747 people registered twice and duplications were removed from the register. About nine percent of voters used sworn statements to prove their citizenship.
Despite some confusion about the documents required to register for local authority elections, the register for Namibia’s 53 local authorities consisted of 407,138 voters – as compared to 417,102 recorded in 2010.
Local authority concerns
The ECN released figures for the local authority registrations from 2010. In comparison with the latest figures, most of these numbers are broadly similar. However, there are some variances of more than 20 percent between the figures for 2010 and 2014 that will require further investigation. No voters were registered in the local authority area of Gochas apparently because people registered there were added to Mariental’s numbers in error. This has to be rectified by the ECN so that residents of Gochas are not disenfranchised.
Of some concern are the apparent low levels of registration in the local authority areas of Walvis Bay (down by 50%), Mariental (down by 49%), Usakos (down by 42%), Karibib (down by 39%), Katima Mulilo (d own by 33%), and Aroab (down by 29%). The possible reasons for these lower levels of registration could be population shifts, apathy, statistical errors and problems with the registration process itself. Such areas may require special attention during the supplementary voter registration period to ensure everyone has had a chance to register. Several local authority areas showed considerable increases in registration figures – particularly Nkurenkuru (up by 57%), Rundu (up by 48%), and Otjiwarongo (up by 37%).
Voting age population
The number of registered voters in 2009 was 1,181,835, according to the Government Gazette issued before the National Assembly and Presidential elections. This means that the current registration figure of 1,162,366 is already 98 percent of the 2009 figure, which was controversial because the ECN issued several different figures before settling on and gazetting 1,181,835.
As a proportion of the Voting Age Population (VAP), the number of people registered inside Namibia – 1,158, 925 – is very high. The VAP can be estimated from the 2011 National Census – although it is not an exact figure as the precise numbers of people who have died or migrated since the census as well as those who have turned 18 are not known.
By estimating the VAP figure, it is possible to gain a clearer picture of participation levels. Major differences between the VAP and the voters register can signal an accuracy problem with the voters’ register or the census data. Namibia’s VAP has been estimated to between 1.2 and 1.3 million. Calculations based on the population structure in the 2011 Population and Housing Census, put the VAP in Namibia in the region of 1,280,000 people. This would mean that the current registration figure is over 90 percent of the VAP. This is a very high proportion which indicates that the vast majority of citizens remain committed to participating in Namibia’s democracy. It is encouraging that there is no apparent drop off in the registration figures among younger people who are often assumed to have less interest in politics and civic affairs. Preliminary estimates would indicate that the combined Kavango East and West regions and the Zambezi region had the lowest turnouts during the registration period (around 70 percent), while Kunene almost reached 100 percent of its voting age population based on 2011 census figures. After the supplementary registration period later this year, it does look as if the number of registered voters will exceed estimates of the voting age population based on the 2011 census. While this indicates a high level of engagement among Namibia’s citizenry it does also point to some statistical problems relating to either the voters register or the census or both that should be investigated further. The ECN maintains that its latest figures are accurate as the biometric system has made it more straightforward to remove duplicates.
In order to further understand the voter registration dynamics it would be important to examine various trends in the registration figures including detailed comparisons with the census figures for each constituency.
The assessments above are of a preliminary nature. For a fuller analysis it would be important for the ECN to release the registration figures for all constituencies from 2010. In addition, the Namibia Statistics Agency should release its own 2014 estimates for the voting age population for each constituency and local authority area based on the 2011 Population and Housing Census. In addition, it would be necessary to have access to the 2013 Delimitation Report to understand the impact of new constituencies on the registration figures. Unfortunately, the Delimitation Report has not yet been released to the public.