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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 19:28 GMT
Q&A: Namibia votes
Namibian President, Sam Nujoma
'Uncle Sam' Nujoma will hand over to his successor next March

Namibians go to the polls on 15 and 16 November to elect a new president and also to vote for members of the National Assembly.

Incumbent President Sam Nujoma is formally standing down after nearly 15 years in power.

Mr Nujoma was unanimously elected as Namibia's first president in 1990, after spending three decades leading an armed struggle against South African rule.

'Uncle Sam', as he is popularly known, was re-elected in 1994 and 1999. Under the constitution, he cannot stand for a fourth term.

But he is expected to retain significant influence from his post as president of the ruling party Swapo (South West Africa People's Organisation), a position he is not due to relinquish until 2007.

Q: Who are the main presidential candidates?

Hifikepunye Pohamba - Swapo: President Nujoma has selected Lands Minister Hifikepunye Pohamba as his preferred successor. He is widely tipped to win the polls for Swapo.

Mr Pohamba was a founding member of Swapo in 1960 and has been Mr Nujoma's close confidant ever since. He has served in a number of senior government positions and is also the party's vice-president.

Mr Nujoma's patronage is seen as Mr Pohamba's strongest asset. The 69-year-old lands, resettlement and rehabilitation minister has pledged to speed up land reform should he be elected.

Katuutire Kaura - Democratic Turnhalle Alliance of Namibia (DTA): Mr Kaura, 63, has been the leader of the official opposition, the DTA, since 1998. He went into exile in the USA during Namibia's independence struggle before returning in 1978. He contested the presidential election in 1999, securing 9.6% of the votes.

Ben Ulenga - Congress of Democrats (CoD): Mr Ulenga, 52, was actively involved in Namibia's struggle for independence. He served as a Swapo member of parliament, resigning from the government in 1998 after criticising Mr Nujoma. He became the first president of the Congress of Democrats (CoD) and is the party's leader in parliament.

Henk Mudge - Republican Party: The Republican Party was revived in 2003 and is participating in the polls as an independent. Its primary aim is to get whites into mainstream politics. Mr Mudge, 52, has said the party's priorities are fighting unemployment and poverty.

Q: How does the system work?

The president is elected for a five-year term and can serve for a maximum of three terms. A bicameral parliament consisting of the National Assembly and the National Council is elected every five years.

The first-past-the-post system is used in the presidential election. A candidate needs to receive more than 50% of the votes cast in order to win.

National Assembly members are voted in by proportional representation, involving a list system where parties nominate as many candidates as there are seats available in the National Assembly.

Each party receives the percentage of seats in parliament equal to the percentage of votes it secures at the polls.

So far around 950,000 voters have registered. This is 150,000 more than in the 1999 polls. An electronic voters' register system is being used to smooth the process.

Ballot papers in braille are being used for the first time for the visually impaired.

Q: What are the issues?

Land reform: The government introduced land reforms in an attempt redress the uneven distribution of land. White farmers, who own 75% of the country's commercial farms, have criticised the move.

Farm workers, on the other hand, have threatened action against white-owned farms. Many have been pressing for Zimbabwe-style land invasions.

HIV/Aids: Health care costs for HIV/Aids-infected individuals are estimated to consume at least 20% of the national health care budget annually.

The Caprivi strip: A secessionist movement in the Caprivi strip, a finger of territory bordering Angola and Botswana, is seeking independence for the region. The movement accuses the government of ignoring the area, singled out by the UN as Namibia's poorest region.

Voter apathy: The media has complained that the opposition parties have been slow to kickstart their campaigns and that voters, particularly women, had been slow to register.

Q: What about the media?

The Namibian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC) has promised to give a balanced treatment to its reports on the elections.

Three southern African media bodies have set up a unit to monitor the media during the polls.

They are the Namibian chapter of the Media Institute of Southern Africa (Misa), the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) and the Pretoria-based Media Tenor South Africa.

Q: Who will monitor the elections?

The government has invited observers from South Africa, Zambia, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community (Sadc) to help monitor the polls.

Volunteers from local NGOs have also pledged to provide observers to ensure the integrity of the election process.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Country profile: Namibia
09 Nov 04 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Namibia
11 Nov 04 |  Country profiles

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