Opposition need to move mountains to convince voters- analysts

Political parties in the opposition camp will have to go beyond rhetoric and pointing at everything that’s wrong with the ruling Swapo Party in order to canvass support from the electorate ahead of the highly anticipated national elections, analysts have reasoned. 

An array of political parties are bracing up to wrestle power out of the ruling party and a few of those that spoke with The Villager indicated that they have already begun to hit the campaign trail.

Speaking to The Villager, prominent academic and political analyst, Ndumbah Kamwanyah has said the politics of de-campaigning have long gone stale while the need to walk the talk and come up with tangible projects holds paramount.

“They tend to focus too much on de-campaigning Swapo from power. Looking at where we are, the history and electoral support that Swapo enjoys, it is a tall-order for them to just say they want to replace Swapo. So I think that’s a dead strategy and they will not be able to succeed at least for a long while,” he says. 

The analyst advises that the onus is upon them to identify key issues facing communities and itemising them on their agendas in order to more easily sync with the voters. 

“What has been lacking and the strategy really is to connect well with the constituencies. I think if they can mobilise these constituencies in terms of the issues of bread and butter, kitchen table issues and all those kind of things, they might be able to get some more seats,” says Kamwanyah. 

Political analyst, Andrew Niikondo submits: “They have to also have some other projects that they are running in order to create an impression to the electorate that they can also do something. It’s very important also for them to have some other projects in order to show people that they can do something instead of simply saying once I am voted to power I am going to do what and what.”

Civil and political rights activist Carola Engelbrecht says opposition parties are doing little to capitalise on their gains to bring tangible results that become points of references and legitimising why they should be voted in power.

“You see, the trouble with opposition parties is that they already have positions in government. They have local government for instance and regional council constituencies. What can they say that they have done? Usually they tell me: No, all their proposals are being ignored and the funding goes to Swapo so they were unable to implement anything because of the lack of funding.”

“I always say then you must go to the media and say that this is what you want and this is why you can’t do it and then maybe the funding will come,” she says.

 Political commentator, Hoze Riruako challenges opposition parties to come up with a valid alternative to provide themselves as a credible replacement for the ruling party.

“These opposition parties, what do they have that they can lay their hands on and say we as the opposition parties can do better than the ruling party?”  

“Their programs should be well outlined, how they would want to do things differently from the ruling party. Not only blaming the opposition party for this and that but for them also to make sure that they highlight the shortcomings of the ruling party. It’s so important for the opposition. That is how they can convince the voters,” he explains. 

Yet the major headache is the time at which they enter the political campaigns, the analyst points out. 

“The first thing that you have to look at is the time at which they start campaigning, that is their first problem. They claim not to have money and they wait until the last hour. Just on the eve of the elections, that’s when they will start to canvass for support."

“On the one side, it’s true opposition parties do not have enough money. What they have to bear in mind is also that if they do not make it a routine to campaign throughout the year from the last election, then they have little time to reach all the corners of this country and to reach all the possible voters.”

“The other thing that has weakened and something they will find very hard to shake off is the legacy. That is the one thing that is haunting the opposition parties,” he says.

Riruako says while a majority of parties are mere groupings formulated on a tribal basis, the official opposition party will always have to face headwinds due to the nature of their relationship with the former colonisers.

“Especially the northerners, when they hear the name, it invokes the memory of insurgencies like Koevoets. It will take time for them to shake off from this. There are parties like NUDO which are seen as Herero, the Rehoboth Basters have their own party, Caprivians have their own party and the list goes.  That in my opinion is what keeps people away from these opposition parties,” he says. 

 The majority of voters seek material comfort and sanctuary within the ruling party and trade their votes for tenders and other rewards, the analyst reasons, while opposition parties have nothing to offer relative to the gains that come with the Swapo party within the economy. 

“The closer they are to the material wealth of this country the closer they are to getting jobs and getting lucrative tenders and so on. That is something that is in the mind of the voters. So you will see people going to support the main party for material gain. Now the opposition can not compete with the ruling party on that one.  How can they compete?” says Riruako.