Politics of Namibia takes place in a framework of a presidential representative democratic republic, whereby the President of Namibia is both head of state and head of government, and of a pluriform multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of parliament. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.
The Constituent Assembly of Namibia produced a constitution which established a multi-party system and a bill of rights. It also limited the executive president to two 5-year terms and provided for the private ownership of property. The three branches of government are subject to checks and balances, and a provision is made for judicial review. The constitution also states that Namibia should have a mixed economy, and foreign investment should be encouraged.
While the ethnic-based three-tier South African-imposed governing authorities have been dissolved, the current government pledged for the sake of national reconciliation to retain civil servants employed during the colonial period. The government is still organizing itself both on a national and regional level.
The Constituent Assembly converted itself into the National Assembly on February 16, 1990, retaining all the members elected on a straight party ticket.
The Namibian head of state is the president, elected by popular vote every five years. The government is headed by the prime minister, who, together with his cabinet, is appointed by the president. SWAPO, the primary force behind independence is still currently the country’s largest party.
Parliament has two chambers. The National Assembly has 78 members, elected for a five year term, 72 members elected by proportional representation and 6 members appointed by the president. The National Council has 26 members, elected for a six year term in double-seat constituencies (regions). The Assembly is the primary legislative body, with the Council playing more of an advisory role. The 1990 constitution is noted for being one of the first to incorporate protection of the environment into its text. Namibia is a democratic but one party dominant state with the South-West Africa People’s Organisation in power. Opposition parties are allowed, but are widely considered to have no real chance of gaining power.
The highest judicial body is the Supreme Court, whose judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of the Judicial Service Commission. The judicial structure in Namibia parallels that of South Africa. In 1919, Roman-Dutch law was declared the common law of the territory and remains so to the present.
Political parties and elections
Elections were held in 1992, to elect members of 13 newly established Regional Councils, as well as new municipal officials. Two members from each Regional Council serve simultaneously as members of the National Council, the country’s second house of Parliament. Nineteen of its members are from the ruling SWAPO party, and seven are from the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA). In December 1994, elections were held for the President and the National Assembly.
Namibia has about 40 political groups, ranging from modern political parties to traditional groups based on tribal authority. Some represent single tribes or ethnic groups while others encompass several. Most participate in political alliances, some of which are multiracial, with frequently shifting membership.
SWAPO is the ruling party, and all but one of the new government’s first cabinet posts went to SWAPO members. A Marxist oriented movement, SWAPO has become more pragmatic and now espouses the need for a mixed economy and Democracy. SWAPO has been a legal political party since its formation and was cautiously active in Namibia, although before implementation of the UN Plan, it was forbidden to hold meetings of more than 20 people, and its leadership was subject to frequent detention. SWAPO draws its strength principally, but not exclusively, from within the Ovambo tribe. In December 1976, the UN General Assembly recognized SWAPO as “the sole and authentic representative of the Namibian people,” a characterization other internal parties did not accept.
In 1999 presidential and parliamentary elections, SWAPO continued its history of political dominance, taking 55 of the 72 Assembly seats, and returning President Sam Nujoma to the office for his third term. The principal opposition parties are the Congress of Democrats (CoD) and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), with each possessing seven seats in the National Assembly.
Namibia is divided in 13 regions; Caprivi, Erongo, Hardap, Karas, Khomas, Kunene, Ohangwena, Okavango, Omaheke, Omusati, Oshana, Oshikoto, Otjozondjupa
International organization participation
Namibia is member of ACP, AfDB, C, ECA, FAO, G-77, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICFTU, ICRM, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, IMO, Interpol, IOC, IOM (observer), ISO (correspondent), ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNMEE, UPU, WCL, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO