The decline of the Namibian opposition 1990-1994, and prospects for the future

Master Thesis


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University of Cape Town

Namibia's founding election did not bring SWAPO a two-thirds majority. Opposition parties' combined votes totalled a third of the poll, giving a strong minority of National Assembly seats to a number of opposition parties. Namibia seemed a ready example of a successful negotiated transition to multi-party democracy. However, in the first five years since independence the opposition parties have fallen behind as SW APO has continued to consolidate its electoral and legislative power. In the first five years since independence the opposition parties have had little effect on government policy-making and have declined significantly in electoral strength - in the second National Assembly election in December 1994 the opposition parties combined decreased from 31 to 19 seats. SW APO, therefore, gained a resounding two-thirds majority, raising concern that Namibia is largely a de facto one-party state. This paper explores reasons for the lack of opposition party influence in the First Parliament and for the electoral decline experienced by the opposition. It is based on interviews with several opposition party leaders as well as other individuals with Namibian expertise. Conclusions are also drawn from primary research on the Hansard debates of the Namibian National Assembly, the Constitution and the Standing Rules and Orders of the National Assembly. Institutional structures within the existing Namibian political system are one reason for the decline of-opposition politics in the country: they limit opposition parties' ability to develop both a wider support base and, concurrently, to influence legislation. Equally important in stifling the growth of the opposition parties are organisation and other internal weaknesses on the part of the parties themselves. Socio-cultural realities in Namibia likewise affect the growth of opposition parties.

Includes bibliographical references.