Former lecturer at the SWAPO Party School, Dr Panduleni Itula, has advocated for the election of an independent candidate as president, arguing that the political situation in the country is now ripe for a leader who is not shackled by party politics.
Dr Itula opined this week that elections do not necessarily produce the best choices for democratic leadership and that party politics is not the only avenue to achieve good democratic rule.
He said events in the ruling party in the last few years, months and weeks, have given Namibians reason to ponder whether an independent president is worth making a cross on the ballot paper.
“Under the Namibian constitutional dispensation, time may be mature for such a shake-up situation to occur…particularly in light of unpleasant tendencies, we witnessed in local governments and the ruling party.”
Referring to the decision by SWAPO to recall its councillors who went against a directive from the party’s top hierarchy to retain the status quo during council elections at Rundu, Dr Itula said there are fertile grounds of dictatorial tendencies surfacing.
“Change is indeed in the hands of Namibians and not political parties. It is in your hands to secure a better future for the cream of our nation, the youth, your children and grandchildren.”
“The time is indeed ripe for such a bold, but courageous move with all its inherent risks,” he said.
Under the Namibian Constitution, a person qualifies to run for the Office of President if he or she is a citizen of Namibia by birth or descent, over the age of thirty-five, and is eligible to be elected to office as a member of the National Assembly.
The candidate for the Office of President can be a politically independent person or the nominee of a registered political party.
An independent candidate has to be supported by a minimum number of registered voters to be determined by Act of Parliament.
Section 72(c)(ii) of the Electoral Act, 20145 requires an independent candidate to be supported by at least 500 registered voters, from each of the 14 regions in Namibia.
In addition, the candidate shall be nominated and seconded by registered voters. The successful candidate has to get more than 50 percent of the votes cast in a presidential election, irrespective of his/her source of nomination.
“Independence here means that the candidate is not running on a political party ticket or slate, whatever one my call it. Indeed, it also means that should s/he wins, s/he is not obliged to provide “jobs for comrades”, which seem to be the cancer dominating Namibian public service at the expense of credible appointments or democratic elections to public office at other levels of government,” Dr Itula said.
He said independent candidacy can be an overarching concept that trumps party politics and the elements of patronage that comes with it.
“[This is] indeed a positive development for our young democracy.”
He cited the example of Joachim Gauck, who was the president of Germany from March 2012 to March 2017 and the first Federal President without party affiliation.
“He remains the most prominent independent politician in modern German politics and constitutional discourses. He was as such a unifying independent leader and a national figure. This reinforces the demands for unity in the country and the SWAPO Party itself. That is why a politician like Angela Merkel who led a party had a headache when the German independent president stepped down.”
Dr Itula said the foundations of the United States of America were laid on an independent first president.
“Specifically, George Washington was the only president elected as an independent, as he was not formally affiliated with any party during his term in office.
“Politically, however, there is a challenge regarding the composition of his Cabinet. Although the president can appoint members of the public into Parliament these members will not have voting rights for they do not represent the will of the people, but serve the wishes of the president.
“Be that as it may, the independent president has the support of the people. This will not and cannot deter the president from establishing a Cabinet with balanced views that support the national agenda towards his vision or the visions which were put in place by his predecessors.”