On Wednesday, the Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) made a public announcement of their union with the United People’s Movement (UPM) as they jointly contest the upcoming elections.
Although some opposition parties have welcomed the PDM call to form an opposition coalition ahead of the National Assembly and Presidential Elections on 27 November 2019, they say they would rather go it alone as the timing is wrong and too late.
Others have rejected the invitation for an alliance flatly, saying that their ideologies differ too much and even though the motivation is borne by the desire to break Swapo’s two-thirds majority, they would not form a coalition now.
PDM’s president, McHenry Venaani said that they were ready to unleash the narrow confines of unity to fight the super majority of Swapo.
“We are holding hands to take our country further. We will be talking to other political parties as well,” he added, saying that the coalition is built on a number of issues, such as the agreement that the GIPF money cannot go unaccounted for and that the national health system is in disarray.
Nudo secretary-general, Jossy Kauandenge, who has been a long proponent of coalitions between opposition parties, said that the invitation was welcomed but due to time constraints, it would be problematic.
He said that the UPM decision to join a coalition with the PDM must have been undertaken after a period of negotiations that could have taken them over three to four months.
“To jump in now and negotiate terms in two to three months is too difficult,” he added, saying that he wished the PDM effort had happened earlier.
The All People’s Party (APP) secretary-general, Vincent Kanyetu, said that the APP was open to coalitions, but the timing was wrong, adding that from past experiences, a number of similar opposition coalitions had failed.
“Some (leaders) have hidden agendas. Some want to be seen as mighty or popular while they are not,” maintained Kanyetu, saying that some leaders of opposition parties want to go to Parliament for benefits at the expense of others.
He said that he expected the coalition between the PDM and UPM to happen because, during his tenure at the DTA (now PDM), negotiations were already ongoing between the two parties.
“If he (McHenry Venaani) was serious about a coalition, he should have made the call earlier to accommodate anyone with proposals,” he added, saying that it was a pity now as the timing is wrong.
The Rally for Democracy and Progress’ (RDP) Brunhilde Cornelius said that the RDP would participate by itself in the elections unless its members request something different, “but at present there is no such deliberation in RDP”.
Swanu’s secretary-general, Isaskar Hijakaere, said that there was no way they would form a coalition with a party whose ideologies completely differ from theirs.
“If my ideology informs my policies, why would I form a coalition?” asked Hijakaere, adding that Swanu’s ideology has always been to restore the dignity of Namibians and ensure fair redistribution of the land , while the DTA, as PDM was formerly known, blocked Swapo in 1978 from winning the elections.
The Landless People’s Movement’s (LPM) spokesperson, Utaara Mootu, also rejected a possible coalition with the PDM, saying that there was no need to join the official opposition as their ideologies differ, where LPM is more leftist based in socialist ideas, while the PDM is capitalist and centred right.
She said that they can join the fight against the use of EVMs in elections and challenge the two-thirds majority, but they will rather run as themselves during the upcoming elections.
Venaani said during a press briefing on Wednesday that, “If there is no greater moment, then it is now with this coalition,” and that the coalition does not exclude other political parties as they were ready to talk.
He stated that they have made a firm deal [with the UPM], which might be imperfect but made in the broader interest of the Namibian people.
The coalition will contest elections under one presidential candidate and one parliamentary list, which includes both political parties.
“We move under one banner (PDM), but both parties will continue to exist,” promised Venaani, explaining that supporters of the two parties were going to vote for PDM as the leading party, while seats in Parliament would include UPM candidates on the list.
Asked how the two parties would avoid infights over leadership clashes as has been the norm among opposition parties, Venaani said that the UPM was a credible and consistent party with no history of squabbles.
Adding that he was not new to such formations, Venaani argued that coalition-building is not about leaders, but making sure that all parties’ interests are addressed.
“The name is not more paramount than the values we are sending across,” he pointed out, saying that in coalition building the bigger parties lead, but that coalition is not about who the leader is but how best to present ideas in the interest of citizens.
UPM’s president, Piet Junius said that part of the ideals of a coalition was to unify people to fight domination.
“We fought against apartheid - we are now against the two-thirds majority in the hands of power-hungry Namibians. Our country is being thrown away,” said Junius, adding that when looking at many political parties’ manifestos, there is a glaring similarity where all want to see the end to corruption and poverty; betterment of education and health facilities, need for land.
“My question is, why don’t we join hands? If we are attacking the same problems, why don’t we fight against what is happening in this country?” asked Junius.
The PDM currently holds five seats in the Namibian National Assembly and one seat in the Namibian National Council while the UPM holds one seat in Parliament and has no representation in the National Council.