Youth urged to vote in upcoming elections
Learn more about the three levels of government and the importance of regional and local authority elections.
29 September 2020 | Youth
The Namibian constitution establishes three levels of government: central government, regional government and local government.
The president and the members of the National Assembly represent all the people of Namibia. They deal with issues that affect everyone in the nation. But communities also need other government bodies that are closer to them, to focus on the issues and problems of the community.
Importance of regional and local authority elections
The chairperson of the electoral commission of Namibia, Notemba Tjipueja, says regional councils and local authorities form an integral part of the democratic governance system of Namibia.
These structures are responsible for bringing the government closer to the people. Tjipueja describes these local representatives as being “charged with the responsibility of dealing with the ‘bread-and-butter’ issues that affect the ordinary citizens of this country”.
Local authorities have the power to make local regulations on a wide variety of matters. All local authorities must supply water, sewerage and refuse disposal services to communities which have been formally established as residential areas which include neighbourhoods where the local authority has laid out streets and divided the land up into plots available for purchase.
Regional councils work together with the National Planning Commission to implement a development plan that will guide growth and development in each region. Regional councils also help local governments in the region. The president or parliament can assign other duties to regional councils as necessary.
When any local authority is unable to carry out its responsibilities, the central government may take steps to deal with the problem.
Each representative to the National Council will serve on the National Council for five years. The voters in each constituency elect one person to represent them on their regional council. A person who is elected to represent a constituency on the council must go to live in that constituency if he or she is not already resident there.
The most important function of a regional council in the public administration of the country is related to socio-economic planning of the region over which it exercises jurisdiction.
In carrying out this function, a council must work closely with the National Planning Commission (NPC), which has the final authority to plan the priorities and direction of national development.
In the planning of the development of its region, a regional council should take into consideration national planning strategies and targets that have been drafted by the National Planning Commission.
These elections are therefore fundamental for regional and national development, although they do not receive the same attention accorded to the National Assembly and presidential elections.
Difference between regional councils and local authorities
Each regional council must select three of its members to represent the region in the National Council.
Regional Councils have the responsibility to elect members to the National Council, therefore they need to exercise within the region for which they have been constituted such executive powers and to perform such duties in connection therewith as may be assigned to them by Act of parliament and as may be delegated to them by the president.
They raise revenue or share in the revenue raised by the central government within the regions for which they have been established, as may be determined by Act of parliament.
This gives them authority to exercise powers, perform any other functions and make such by-laws or regulations as may be determined by an Act of parliament.
During the election, voters will vote for the candidate they believe will administer their constituency most capably and effectively.
During the first sitting of the regional council, the members will elect three councillors to represent the region in the National Council.
Voters can only vote in the constituency in which they are registered. The candidate who receives the most votes per constituency will be elected to the regional council.
Elections for local authority councils are held every five years. Local authority elections are held based on party lists, where voters elect a political party rather than an individual.
Local authority councils include all municipalities, town councils and village councils.
These councils are tasked with managing and maintaining the area for which they are established and which they represent.
Their tasks include, for example, the provision of water and waste removal. During the local authority election, you will vote for the political party of your choice.
This party will appoint its representatives to the local authority on the proportional list system. You can only vote in the election if you have lived in the jurisdiction of the local authority for more than one year. The party will receive seats in proportion to the number of votes it received.
Know who you are voting for
Voter education with respect to the work of the local authority and regional council elections, as well as the voting process for this level of governance, is often limited.
According to the Market Watch, an insert in the daily’s of Namibia Media Holdings, the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) does well to inform eligible voters of the requirements to register for the elections, little information is provided on the roles and responsibilities of regional and local authority councillors, Tthe modalities of how these councillors are selected and subsequently elected, and ways in which voters can hold them accountable.
The councils and authorities, too, do not consistently and actively engage the public on the importance of their work.
Therefore, voters are often unsure what they’re voting for, and how their vote in these elections contributes to development in their regions, constituencies and local authorities.
This leads to the disconnection of voters at this level of government.
The corporate communications and marketing manager of the Electoral Commission Namibia, Lina Ndunge, says the ECN is still busy extracting data from the registration process and still does not have clear statics on the number of young people that have registered.