SWAPO Party Executive Director Austin Samupwa says Wednesday’s pact between the official opposition Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) and Rehoboth based United People’s Movement (UPM) is of no consequence.
PDM president McHenry Venaani told journalists when he announced the coalition that there has been no better time to break SWAPO’s two-thirds majority in Parliament while UPM president Piet Junius said the alliance was an exceptional highlight of his half-century-long political career.
However, Samupwa told the Windhoek Observer that the ruling party was not moved by the political marriage.
“We are not scared at all,” the ruling party’s top administrator said. “SWAPO is an established party with its base, the whole country. Whatever they (PDM/UPM) do is their business, and we continue with our own business which is to ensure that we have the same number of seats in the National Assembly or even more. So we are not worried.”
He added that SWAPO is on course to win the 2019 Presidential and National Assembly elections scheduled to take place on 27 November.
Political analyst and director of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) Graham Hopwood said the union between PDM and UPM is likely only to affect Rehoboth where the PDM could pick up most of the voters who backed UPM in 2014.
“UPM is a very small party whose support is largely restricted to one geographical area - so this alliance won't have much of a national impact apart from a slight increase in PDM's overall vote share,” Hopwood said.
“In 2014, UPM received less than one percent of the national vote so there is no sign that this pact will any way challenge SWAPO's two-thirds majority.”
He added that there would have been more impact if PDM was able to make similar agreements with other small, regionally-based parties.
“But it's difficult to see which party would want this since they would probably think they would be better off standing alone. An agreement between opposition parties before next year's regional council elections might make more sense. Opposition parties could unite behind one candidate who is seen to be the main challenger to SWAPO in a particular constituency.”
PDM Secretary General Manuel Ngaringombe dismissed suggestions that the “last minute” coalition with UPM shows that his party is panicking ahead of the November Presidential and National Assembly election, especially after the party, performed dismally in the Ondangwa and Oshakati by-elections.
“The only party that needs to panic is SWAPO, who have created tremendous voter apathy in their former strongholds, the results are there to see,” Ngaringombe shot back.
“Coalition has been part of our discussions for a long time and it does not take a week or less than 5 months to arrive at such a huge step. We are far from panicking, only meticulous planning and implementation. The PDM will roll out its plan over the next weeks and months.”
UNAM lecturer Ndumba Kamwanyah said the coalition between PDM and UPM will not have much significance but is a very good move for the official opposition party.
“Fragmented politics is not good for opposition parties because they take votes from each other as opposed to the ruling party SWAPO, therefore, they (the small parties) are the ones causing the PDM, as an official opposition, to lose votes/seats,” Kamwanyah said, adding that mathematically, an opposition party-driven coalition can't make a dent against the SWAPO Party at this moment.
“In the current political context, the coalition-arrangement will not affect or influence voter-behaviours, meaning that it will not shift or make people vote differently.”
He said those that vote for the SWAPO will still vote for it and those that do not will still vote differently by voting the coalition.
“So mathematically speaking no new change will occur in terms of vote-behaviour. If anything, opposition coalitions before the election will energize the SWAPO Party's electoral base to turn out in numbers.”
Kamwanyah also dismissed claims that the “last minute” coalition shows Venaani is panicking ahead of the November Presidential and National Assembly election.
“I don't think it is panicking, but the PDM has realized that their strength to increase their votes/seats lies in rallying small opposition parties behind PDM. Two or three smaller parties together may bring in one or two-seat/s for the party.
“This in itself is an acknowledgment that under the current political situation where the SWAPO Party dominantly enjoys huge electoral support, it is near impossible for an opposition party to steal votes away from the SWAPO Party. But it is possible to get some votes from smaller opposition parties. Therefore forming coalitions in this way is a consolidation of the splinted votes from smaller parties.”
A BRIEF HISTORY ON UPM
The Rehoboth based United People’s Movement (UPM) managed to win one seat in the National Assembly in the 2014 elections.
UPM vice-chairperson Jan Van Wyk represents the party in Parliament where he famously advocated for the recognition as war veterans of ex-South West Africa Territorial Forces (SWATF) and those of the erstwhile counter-terrorism police, Koevoet.
Last year, Van Wyk in a parliamentary statement challenged the legality of the Veterans Act, Act No 2 of 2008, which he labeled as being unconstitutional as it violates Article 10 of the Namibian Constitution.
Van Wyk is a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Constitutional and Legal Affairs, which was tasked to look into a petition submitted to the committee by the Namibia War Veterans Trust (Namvet).
UPM president Junius is a former DTA (now PDM) vice-chairperson and parliamentarian, who was elected leader of his party in April last year. Junius replaced founding president Willem van Wyk, who retired at the end of August 2017.
Junius, who is 77 years old, was the DTA's chief whip in the National Assembly from 1990 to 2003 and also served as a minister in the pre-independence transitional government.
The party also won three seats in the Rehoboth Town Council.