November 29, 2019 / 5:39 PM / 16 days ago

Namibian leader Geingob takes big lead in presidential election

WINDHOEK (Reuters) - President Hage Geingob took a commanding lead in Namibia’s presidential election with roughly two-thirds of the votes counted following Wednesday’s vote, official data showed on Friday.

Geingob, Namibia’s third leader since the sparsely populated and mostly arid country freed itself from the shackles of apartheid South Africa in 1990, was seeking a second and final term in the Nov. 27 election.

His SWAPO party is contending with an economy in recession for nearly three years, one of Namibia’s worst droughts and its biggest corruption scandal - all of which conspired to make the vote unexpectedly tough for Geingob.

He faced nine challengers including Panduleni Itula, a dentist-turned-politician who is a SWAPO member but running as an independent. Itula is popular with young people, nearly half of whom are unemployed.

With 62.3% of the vote countered so far, presidential results from 76 out of 121 constituencies showed that Geingob was on track to retain office despite a dwindling support base in urban areas.

Geingob, who was first elected in 2014 with 87% of the vote, has so far garnered 56.9% of the votes counted, followed by Itula with 28.34%, while the leader of the official opposition party, McHenry Venaani, was in third position with 5.04%.

In legislative voting for 96 members of parliament, SWAPO has garnered 65.21% of the vote with 53.28% of the ballots counted, while Venaani’s Popular Democratic Movement (PDM) has secured 15.73%.

A SWAPO victory could be disputed after a court threw out a case mounted by the opposition against the use of electronic voting machines it fears would be used to cheat.

Reporting by Nyasha Nyaungwa; Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Mark Heinrich

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