Friday, 4 December 2015

Simplifying elective methods will increase voter participation

Namibia held its Regional Council and Local Authority elections on 27th November 2015. Probably the biggest lesson for the country is that so few voters (less than 40%) bothered to participate even after it was declared a public holiday.

In the Regional Council election, each voter is expected to vote for an individual and it is easy for comparisons to be made between the individuals and the parties they represent. HOWEVER, our Local Authority elections are based on the party list system  - and very few voters even know who the candidates are they are voting for when they press the button next to their party of choice.
Looking at the results from the Local Authority election, I am reminded of a quote from Henry George in 1833:

"Much, too, may be done to restrict the abuse of party machinery, and make the ballot the true expression of the will of the voter, by simplifying our elective methods. And a principle should always be kept in mind which we have largely ignored, that the people cannot manage details, nor intelligently choose more than a few officials. To call upon the average citizen to vote at each election for a long string of candidates, as to the majority of whom he can know nothing unless he makes a business of politics, is to relegate choice to nominating conventions and political rings. And to divide power is often to destroy responsibility, and to provoke, not to prevent, usurpation."

(usurpation = taking someone's power or property by force)

Namibia must start looking at a way of simplifying our elective methods. A good way to start is looking at a system of direct voting for representatives at the local authority. In this way the voter has an opportunity to know the individual that wishes to represent their area - and more importantly know where to take their complaints concerning the specific geographic area within the local authority.

Under the new electoral law, the mechanism of referendums can be used to get a "Yes" or "No" from voters on a specific issue. The ECN should use this mechanism to ask: "Should local authority elections be held on a ward system?"

Please note:
Referendums is logically preferable as a plural form meaning ballots on one issue (as a Latin gerund, referendum has no plural). The Latin plural gerundive referenda, meaning things to be referred, necessarily connotes a plurality of issues. 

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