Opposition political parties have been urged to hit the ground running and start talking to the electorate to make themselves more visible as the nation begins its genuine march towards the 2019 general elections.
Speaking to The Villager, an array of analysts have said despite a traditional lack of adequate funds impeding early electioneering in the opposition camps, the onus is upon them to catch up with the ruling Swapo Party as far as visibility is concerned.
However, the Namibian political culture is such that parties do not campaign early until closer to the elections, they reasoned.
“It is way too early but for the opposition parties, if they want to be visible I think this is the right time to start because when you look at the ruling party, last year it just came out of a campaign and it was visible everywhere although it was the congress. It was visible on television,” says prominent academic and political analyst Ndumbah Kamwanyah.
Kamwanyah is of the opinion that this season, as early as it is, provides ample opportunity for opposition parties to formulate ideas on what messages they will be running with come 2019.
“But the only problem is probably resources because we know that they struggle when it comes to financial resources which may prevent them from doing so. But I think you can see from the Landless People’s Movement (LPM) that they have that idea of making themselves visible and known to the public and when elections start next year, they would have become some sort of a household name,” says Kamwanyah.
Prolific political commentator, Hoze Riruako, says that the idea for parties to start electioneering now is a must, in spite of the many reasons they have been giving all along as impeding hitting the campaign trail earlier.
‘’They also claim that Swapo, apart from being a huge party with its own resources and the fact that it is a governing party, also uses state resources. The other complaint was that the money that was being given to the parties in parliament to campaign was being given on a proportional basis, depending on what seats you have in parliament. They think that this money was not across the board and that puts them in a very awkward position,’’ he says.
Parties have also been raising red flags over the manner in which foreign donations were negatively perceived locally which put an albatross over their necks, Hoze submits
“But the gist of the matter still remains, the earlier the opposition parties start campaigning the better results they will get. The one thing that they are not doing much is to try and canvass for support in Swapo strongholds. It seems as if Swapo strongholds are no go areas for opposition parties so they must come up with programs and arguments that are very appealing to the electorate. If you tell people what they need to hear, issues that matter to the electorate, that is the only way that they stand a chance,” he further explicates.
The analyst opines that the popular mind-set has to also change and that the electorate invest their votes on parties on the basis of performance.
Hoze says this lack of change is an element which kills party and participatory democracy.
“The thing is that, if nothing is changing, by default, Namibia is slowly but certainly moving towards a one party state because the oppositions are so weak and they are so fragmented and they are so out-manoeuvred by the ruling party to such an extent that very few people will want to stand on a podium and tell the nation that they are proud supporters of any given opposition party. So it is a big paradigm shift that must happen both from the political parties themselves in terms of campaigning and electioneering and then also from the side of the voters where they will no longer vote on political ideologies,” he stamps.
Crisis Coalition front-person and associate researcher, Frederico Links, says it is never too late to start campaigning and that political parties should find it in their DNA to be speaking with the electorate all the time and not only during elections.
“It shouldn’t be left to a few months before the election. They should use the periods between the elections to build support and create media awareness and continuously engage with the public so that they stay in the public’s eye. That’s the right way to go,” he points out.
Links says this time around there has to be a change in the approach and message the parties put across to the electorate and that they should acutely concentrate on addressing pressing issues.
‘’That has never been the focus of our elections in these election campaigns. I think it’s time that we grew up, that we matured politically but that’s up to the public. The public is still willing to listen to sloganeering and rhetoric from election platforms and campaign platforms,’’ he says.
Links forwards that the time is now that people across the entire body politic start dialogue on the voting process, and sort concerns around the issues to do with voting machines.
Meanwhile, the rebranded official opposition party, People’s Democratic Movement (PDM) formerly known as the DTA, told The Villager that they would be holding a briefing with the media soon to lay out party plans for 2018.