Namibia is the first African country to use electronic voting machines (EVMs) for national and presidential elections.
The polls opened at 7am, but at many polling stations in the capital, Windhoek, voting could start only 15 to 30 minutes later because of hiccups.
“We have experienced problems with the EVMs and had to call one of our technicians to sort it out, delaying polls by about 30 minutes,” said an election official in the Windhoek East constituency.
“There were also some issues with the hand-held devices to verify the voter cards,” he said, but did not provide details.
Theo Mujoro, director of operations at the electoral commission, confirmed the problems.
“It is not so much technical problems, but operator errors,” Mujoro said.
“During voter registration early this year, all 10 fingerprints of each voter were recorded. The hand-held scanning device scans the voter card at polls today and one fingerprint. Some thumb or fingerprints are weak.
“Officials were instructed during training to then use the second and third finger and so on for verification. Some of them, however, tried to repeat verifying the thumb of a voter and that caused problems with the hand-held scanner.”
Asked if polling stations would remain open beyond the official closing time of 9pm, Mujoro replied: “Any voter standing in the queue in front of a polling station at 9pm will be able to still cast his vote, regardless the length of the queue.”
The delays experienced with the electronic devices at polling stations in several regions of Namibia could delay the announcement of election results, originally planned to be completed 24 hours after the polls close.
“Naturally, with the delays experienced, the counting of votes and announcement of results from polling stations and constituencies will be pushed back by a couple of hours,” Mujoro said.
“We hope to have all results now within 48 hours after polls close.”
Meanwhile, President Hifikepunye Pohamba cast his vote at a primary school near State House in the morning.
“It is very good to see Namibians practising their democratic right in the most enabling peaceful and stable atmosphere,” he said afterwards.
His probable successor, Prime Minister Hage Geingob, cast his vote in the heart of Katutura, a township on the north-western outskirts of Windhoek, in mid-morning.
Geingob was cheered and applauded by voters in the queue when he arrived and left the Katutura community hall.
About 1.24 million voters are to cast their votes in 121 constituencies to elect a new parliament and a new president. The president is elected directly and voters thus vote twice when they are in the booth.