Spotlight Namibia 77 out of the 96 seats on offer, roughly in line with the 54 of 72 seats it won in the 2009 election for what was then a smaller National Assembly. The DTA gained five seats and the RDP three, while the President is entitled to appoint a further six members to the lower house of parliament. The 26 members of the upper house, known as the National Council, are chosen by regional councils rather than direct voting. The election was the first entirely electronic poll to be held in Africa, with a choice of buttons rather than ballot papers placed in voting booths. Four opposition parties had challenged the introduction of the system in the Namibian High Court two days before the election, on the grounds that the lack of a paper trail would ease interference, but their appeal was rejected. Despite their objections, all 16 parties registered to take part in the parliamentary election participated on the day itself. Following a series of corruption allegations, many analysts had predicted that Swapo’s share of the vote would fall as Namibians expressed their outrage at the ballot box. There have been reports that land has been sold below market value to people connected with leading politicians. However, the lack of a strong opposition party appears to have strengthened Swapo’s position, while the party’s policy of providing free access to primary education continues to attract widespread support. All foreign observers declared the election free and fair, although they did Mineral-based economy is vulnerable to fluctuations © Ikiwaner / CC by SA 2.0 Rössig uranium mine in the Namib Desert www.global global f i rst quar ter 2015 -br ief ing.org l 31 © Stephen Martin Namibia’s economy is driven by the mining of its rich natural resources, as well as its fishing industry. Since independence in 1990, exports of diamonds, uranium, zinc and fish products have grown strongly. Tourism, and particularly ecotourism of the diverse landscapes and wildlife, contributes significantly to GDP. Mining makes up around 11 per cent of GDP with diamonds contributing about two thirds of this. Extractive industries are the main source of private sector employment. Namdeb, a joint venture between De Beers and the government, conducts almost all the diamond mining in the country. However, the majority of the country’s vast rural population remains unaffected by these activities. Government policy is to raise per capita income, to develop the private sector and to encourage diversification into manufacturing activities, such as the production of clothing and textiles. Drought, as well as the depletion of fish stocks, resulted in Namibia falling short of the national development plan target of five per cent growth in the economy per annum in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Growth did pick up from 2002 onwards, on account of increased diamond production, the opening of a new zinc mine and refinery, and increased textiles output. But in the wake of the world economic downturn and consequent falls in demand for Namibia’s minerals, the economy stalled in the latter part of 2008 and contracted in 2009. Growth has since returned to a steady rate of four to six per cent a year. The government’s main challenges are curbing public spending and limiting inflation, the latter reaching seven per cent in 2011.
Global issue 20
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