|Namibians went to the polls on 15 and 16 November 2004 for parliamentary and presidential elections that marked the end of President Sam Nujoma's rule. Mr Nujoma, a liberation hero and founding member of the ruling SWAPO party (South West Africa People's Organisation) which led an armed struggle against apartheid South African rule for more than three decades, had held office for 14 years since the country's independence in 1990. Mr Nujoma, who would remain as president of the SWAPO party, had hand-picked Mr. Hifikepunye Pohamba, Lands Minister in the outgoing government, as the party's presidential candidate.
Some 977,400 registered voters out of a population of 1.82 million were asked to choose candidates for the 72 seats in the National Assembly through party lists, while the President was elected by direct vote. Seven of the nine political parties contesting the parliamentary election fielded contenders for the presidential poll. Three parties were taking part in the elections for the first time, the Namibian Movement for Democratic Change, the National Unity Democratic Organisation (Nudo) and the Republican Party (RP). The RP and Nudo were part of the DTA (Democratic Turnhalle Alliance) in the previous elections. The other parties contesting the elections were the Congress of Democrats (CoD), the Monitor Action Group (MAG), the United Democratic Front (UDF), Swanu and SWAPO.
Land reform was present in virtually all parties' manifestos presented during the electoral campaign. At the launch of Swapo's manifesto, Mr Nujoma had promised that 162 farms, owned by foreigners, would be expropriated by the government and redistributed to black peasants. Mr Ben Ulenga, leader of the Congress of Democrats, criticized and reform under the SWAPO's government saying that it had been only the rich within SWAPO that had benefited. He asked for the land to go to the poor and landless. The RP leader declared that land reform was "an inherited political dilemma" that had to be addressed.
Apart from land reform, SWAPO's other priorities were health, housing, education and job creation. The RP identified unemployment and poverty as its two burning issues. Nudo's campaign concentrated on health and social welfare with a particular focus on the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
Just two weeks before the election opposition parties threatened to boycott the polls, accusing the public broadcaster, the Namibia Broadcasting Corporation (NBC), of bias in favour of the ruling SWAPO party. The CoD and DTA alleged that the NBC was awarding SWAPO a disproportionate amount of television air-time.
In addition to free access to state machinery, SWAPO injected money into the campaign. It was sourced from several private companies which the opposition alleged had bankrolled SWAPO in order to win business tenders. Parties are barred by law from receiving funds from outside Namibia, and the opposition claimed it had had no budgets for the campaign whatsoever.
The Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) had welcomed observers from other countries as well as teams from the SADC Parliamentary Forum, the African Union and the European Union to monitor the elections.
Turnout, as announced by the Electoral Commission, was 85 per cent, a record in all the three general elections held since Namibia's independence from the South African apartheid regime in 1990.
The Electoral Commission of Namibia, the ruling and most opposition parties as well as international observers described the elections as generally free and fair.
Results announced by the Electoral Commission of Namibia showed that SWAPO's presidential candidate, Mr Hifikepunye Pohamba, had taken 625,605 votes, or 76.4 percent of the 818,360 valid votes cast. The best performer of the six opposition candidates, Mr Benjamin Ulenga, from the Congress of Democrats (CoD), got 59,547 votes, or 7.3 percent.
SWAPO also retained its 55 seats in the National Assembly, as it garnered 619,066 votes in the parliamentary elections, or 75 per cent of the 827,042 valid votes. CoD and the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), which each held 7 seats in the outgoing National Assembly, saw their representation reduce to five and four seats, respectively, in the new one. The United Democratic Front (UDF) increased its number of seats from two to three while the Monitor Action Group retained its single seat. Newcomers Nudo won three seats and the Republican Party one seat.
Upon the opposition parties' complaint, the High Court ordered on 16 December the Electoral Commission to provide these parties with election reports for all constituencies. After perusing the documents, the opposition parties filed a court application on 21 December 2004 to have the November national polls declared null and void, or to have all the 830,000 ballots recounted. The High Court on 10 March 2005 ordered a recount of the ballots within five days of the judgment. The recount began on 13 March was hampered by the fact that some ballot boxes had been damaged by rain and a number of others missing from a government warehouse. The chairperson of the Namibian electoral commission confirmed the election results on 16 March.
The members of the National Assembly were sworn in on 20 March as scheduled and elected Mr. Theo-Ben GURIRAB as the new Speaker.