December 1, 2014 / 5:04 PM / in 3 years

Namibia's ruling SWAPO wins presidential election with 86 percent: commission

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - Namibia’s ruling SWAPO party cruised to victory in the 2014 presidential election with Prime Minister Hage Geingob taking 86.73 percent of all declared votes, the southern African country’s electoral commission said on Monday.

Second placed presidential candidate McHenry Venaani of the Democratic Turnhalle Alliance limped in with 4.97 percent. SWAPO also consolidated its power in parliament, retaining a two-third majority with 80 percent of the national assembly ballot.

Friday’s election was Africa’s first electronic ballot and SWAPO had been widely expected to extend its 24-year rule with people in the mineral-rich state seeing stability as their priority in the face of a global commodities downturn.

The former liberation movement turned governing party has won widespread support at the helm of one of Africa’s healthiest economies through its investment in railways and other infrastructure, and provision of free primary education.

Over 1.2 million people registered to vote, and despite delays, observers declared the election free and fair and praised the technological innovation used by Namibia, which won independence from apartheid South Africa in 1990.

Geingob, from the minority Damara ethnic group and known as “Omake” (Unifier), will have to defuse growing discontent over land and housing in the diverse country of 2.3 million people with at least 11 ethnic groups.

Two weeks ago protesters chanted slogans calling for land distribution in the capital Windhoek, although in his election campaign Geingob said government would spend N$45 billion ($4.1 billion) over the next 18 years to build 185,000 new homes.

“The big issue at the moment is urban land and housing, so how the president is going to deal with this and other bread and butter issues will help set the tone for his presidency,” said Johnathan Beukes, online editor in charge of election coverage at the Namibian, the largest daily newspaper.

Namibia aims to become the world’s second largest uranium producer after Kazakhstan with construction of its Chinese-backed Husab mine, which is forecast to start production in the second half of 2015.

It has been one of the world’s best performing economies with growth forecast to rise to 5 percent in 2014 from 4.4 percent last year. Construction in the mining and energy sectors is underpinning growth.

But lower metal prices, especially for key export uranium, pose a risk, according to Namibia’s central bank.

Reporting by Wendell Roelf; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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