Election Watch

Promoting democracy in Namibia

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In power but not in touch?

Out of Namibia’s elected politicians, Namibians are least likely to contact a National Assembly member if they have a problem or want to pass on their views. Ninety six percent of respondents said they had not contacted a member of the National Assembly (NA) in the past year, according to the Afrobarometer opinion survey. Three percent had contacted an NA MP either once or a few times.
Members of the National Council are also not in demand when it comes to citizens communicating their views or problems, according to the nationwide survey. Some 94 percent had never been in contact, while five percent had either once or a few times.
Next on the unpopularity list are local authority councillors with 83 percent of respondents saying that had not been in touch. Some 17 percent said they had been in contact either once, a few times or often.
The most contacted group were Regional Councillors with 21 percent of respondents saying they had contacted their representatives and 78 percent saying they had not been in touch.
The results support the theory that politicians elected to represent constituencies are far more likely to be in touch with the problems and issues that ordinary voters are facing. Members of the National Assembly are elected through the party list proportional representation system. As a result, they are accountable to their parties rather than constituencies and the public has no direct access to an MP who represents their area. Regional Councillors are the only politicians in the Namibian system that actually represent constituents and therefore it is not surprising that that they emerge as the most ‘in touch’ representatives in this survey. National Councillors sit in Namibia’s second chamber of parliament, but they are also Regional Councillors – so while they may not be contacted as parliamentarians they could be in touch with constituents in their capacity as Regional Councillors.
Local Authority Councillors are also elected according to a party list system (there are no wards in Namibia), but are at least collectively responsible to the village, town or city that they run.
The low number of people actually contacting politicians could be due to the inaccessibility of elected representatives but it could also, in part, be attributed to apathy among the populace.
The low percentage of people contacting National Assembly members (who are Namibia’s most powerful elected politicians) would tend to indicate that the party list system does not encourage participatory democracy.
The Afrobarometer is a public opinion survey of 1,200 Namibians with a margin of error of three percent. For more on the Afrobarometer see:

© 2019 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.