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Key findings
  • Namibians want a political system in which multiple parties contest free and fair elections and win the right to form the government. Seven in 10 Namibians (71%) support multiparty competition, and more than eight in 10 (82%) reject one-party rule.
  • Identification with a political party is at an all-time low. Only a slim majority (55%) of Namibians of voting age say they “feel close to” a party, down from 80% in 2014. Young Namibians show the lowest levels of partisanship.
  • Party affiliation follows the same over-time pattern as perceptions of personal living conditions and economic optimism – peaking in 2014 and dropping sharply since then.
  • About two-thirds (64%) of respondents say they voted in the 2014 election, while far fewer report having attended a campaign rally (21%) or worked for a party or candidate (4%).
  • Despite downward trends with regard to partisanship and trust, most Namibians still believe that as voters they have the power to elect the right leader to bring about change.

For the sixth time since independence, Namibians are going to the polls to choose a president and members of the National Assembly – in free and fair elections whose outcome has never varied.

Although Namibia uses a closed party-list system with “largest remainders” provisions that optimize parliamentary inclusion even for very small parties, the ruling SWAPO Party has managed to increase its share of votes and parliamentary seats consistently since the founding elections of 1989.

During the last national election, in 2014, SWAPO obtained 80% of votes cast and as a result now holds 77 of the 96 available National Assembly seats. The seat-bearing opposition parties obtained among them only 15% of the vote and 19 seats.

With such a dominant ruling party and weak opposition for such a long time, how do Namibians view their political options? Do they still support a system based on multiple parties? Do they still feel close to the current crop of parties, and do they still trust them? And do Namibians still believe their votes can bring change?

A recent Afrobarometer survey shows that while Namibians value multiparty competition, fewer “feel close to” and trust political parties. But despite these negative trends, most Namibians still believe in their power as voters to bring about positive change.

Christiaan Keulder

Christiaan Keulder is the national investigator for Namibia.