Election Watch

Promoting democracy in Namibia

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Overview of the regional and local elections

On November 27th, 2015, Namibians will head to the polls to elect Regional Councillors and Local Authority Councillors of their choice.
Regional Councils and Local Authorities are important elements of Namibia’s governance system because they are tasked with bringing government closer to the people in terms of service delivery and development at the grassroots level.
In a recent statement highlighting the Electoral Commission of Namibia’s efforts thus far in preparing for these elections, ECN Chairperson, Advocate Notemba Tjipueja described these local representatives as being “charged with the responsibility of dealing with the ‘bread and butter’ issues which affect the ordinary citizens of this country”.
A draft Position Paper on Local Government Reform provides a strong context for the importance of these elections:
"Local government epitomises democracy to the extent that local representatives are elected by the people in regular and timely elections under conditions of political freedom and that these citizens are subsequently engaged in the local decision-making process. In this way both the vote and the voice will be adequately represented. Institutionalised structures are expected to be in place to facilitate and maximise citizens’ participation in the affairs of their communities. This is a fundamental principle of local democracy that promotes inclusion and enriches the discourse on issues affecting communities so that ensuing decisions and development programmes reflect citizens’ preferences and priorities. Citizens are expecting nothing less and, with recent global events, are even prepared to resist attempts to deny or deprive them of these rights."
Importantly, these elections are meant to complement Government’s decentralisation efforts. The Decentralisation Policy of 1998 (partially enacted into legislation through the Decentralisation Enabling Act of 2000), aims to widen the level of democracy at the regional level and to increase the participation of the general population in their development, thereby deepening democracy, bringing government closer to the people, promoting broader participation in governmental and developmental affairs by all citizens.
The Regional Council and Local Authority elections are regulated in terms of the Regional Councils Act of 1992 and the Local Authority Councils Act of 1992, as well as the Electoral Act of 2014.
Part V of the Local Authority Councils Act defines the roles of the Local Authority Councils, which essentially amount to public service delivery within their defined areas. Amongst many others, this includes the provision, maintenance and or establishment of services such as water, sewerage and drainage systems, cemeteries, electricity, public transport services, and so forth.
The role of the Regional Councils, as noted in the Regional Councils Act, is “to undertake…the planning of the development of the region for which it has been established”, with due consideration for the physical, social and economic characteristics of the region; the distribution, increase and movement and urbanisation of the region’s population; natural and other resources; and general land use patterns; and existing and planned infrastructure. The Council also exercises other duties delegated to it by the President; (including advising the President on regional matters); makes recommendations to the line Minister in relation to local authorities situated in the region; establishes, manages and controls settlement areas; and assists local authorities in carrying out their duties, to name but a few of the multiple tasks ascribed to the Council.
Until the 2014 changes to the Constitution, (and subsequent amendments to the affected policies), two member of each Regional Council were nominated to represent their region in the National Council. Following the changes to the constitution, 3 members of each RC will now head to parliament, increasing the size of the National Council from the current 26, to 42 National Council MPs after the upcoming election.
Since 2011 Regional Governors have been appointed by the President instead of being nominated by their fellow elected regional councillors (as was the case before amendments to the Regional Councils Act in 2010).

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© 2017 Election Watch

Election Watch is a project of the Institute for Public Policy Research in Windhoek, Namibia. Election Watch is funded by the European Union and the Canadian Fund for Local Initiatives.