Namibia Votes, Ruling Party Faces An Unusual Challenge

JOHANNESBURG (AP) – Namibia was voting on Wednesday in a general election in which the ruling party faced its biggest challenge since independence almost three decades ago. The South African nation, rich in resources, has 1.3 million registered voters who must elect the president and members of the National Assembly.

The SWAPO ruler has been shaken by a corruption scandal and the weakening of the economy. In addition, more than 700,000 of the 2.5 million inhabitants of the country have registered to receive aid for the drought that affects the region.

The president, Hage Geingob, faces a candidate from his own party who presents himself as an independent. Dr. Panduleni Itula has appealed to young people in a country with 46% unemployment in that sector of the population. The vote will involve more than 400,000 voters born after Namibia gained independence from South Africa.

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Itula filed a last-minute appeal against the use of electronic voting machines that was rejected. The country will be the first in sub-Saharan Africa to use these devices.

After casting his vote on Wednesday, Geingob said the elections are a contest, not a war, the Namibian Broadcasting Corporation reported.

If no presidential candidate obtains more than 50% of the votes, an unpublished ballot would be held in the country.

In the last elections, held in 2014, SWAPO obtained 80% of the votes, its best historical result, while 87% of the ballots elected Geingob as president.

Two ruling party ministers resigned this month after Iceland's largest fishing company, Samherji, was accused of paying bribes to local politicians to access Namibia's fishing quota, one of the country's key resources alongside mining .

Political analysts did not expect the scandal to be reflected in the results of the election day because many voters already had their vote decided.

Among the presidential candidates is Esther Muinjangue, the first woman to run for office.

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