Namibia heads to the polls in national elections amid entrenched recession

Namibia goes to the polls today for general elections amid discontent over the state of the economy. A recession has

namibia election

Photo: Panduleni F B Itula

Namibia goes to the polls today for general elections amid discontent over the state of the economy.

A recession has seen President Hage Geingob’s popularity wane as his first term comes to an end, especially with the Bank of Namibia predicting year-end data to show a 1.9% GDP contraction for 2019. Given Namibia’s economic reliance on the export of precious metals and copper, the country has suffered from low commodity prices, and public debt has soared. Meanwhile, high youth unemployment—hovering at just under 50%—has seen the ruling party, the South West Africa People’s Organisation (SWAPO), lose some support.

Geingob faces opposition from independent candidate and ex-SWAPO member Panduleni Itula and the Popular Democratic Movement’s leader, McHenry Venaani. The incumbent won the 2014 election with an overwhelming 87% majority, and he is likely to win again, albeit with a lower vote total—early polling numbers suggest a close race between Itula and Geingob.

It remains likely that SWAPO will retain its two-thirds parliamentary majority, as opposition parties lack both the budget and cohesion to rally voters, despite Namibia’s economic malaise. Expect Geingob’s lower margin of victory to galvanise SWAPO to enact stimulatory measures aimed at diversifying the economy. Specifically, SWAPO could incentivise non-mining investment and develop strategies to boost youth employment.

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