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Thousands Vote in Namibia

December 1, 1999

USAKOS, Namibia (AP) _ Namibians voted today in the second day of balloting to decide whether they want to continue being ruled by the party that liberated them from South Africa.

Voting proceeded smoothly as thousands turned out, braving the blistering heat to cast ballots. Electoral commission officials admitted, however, that some people had been caught trying to vote twice.

Opposition parties on Tuesday charged that the election was fraudulent because ink applied to voters’ thumbs could be easily washed off, making it possible for people to vote more than once.

European Union election observers were investigating the problem, said Paavo Pitkanen, one of the observers. The commission also issued a new set of instructions to poll officials on how to use the ink.

``The appropriate action will be taken,″ said Peter Mietzner, commission spokesman.

It is the third democratic election in this southwestern African nation, which is battling 40 percent unemployment, widespread poverty and one of the worst HIV/AIDS problems in the world.

Most people voted on Tuesday and lines were short or nonexistent today.

The South West African People’s Organization and its leader President Sam Nujoma, which have ruled Namibia since independence from South Africa in 1989, are expected to easily win another five years in office.

But the 70-year-old Nujoma, a former guerrilla leader, has come under fire for committing 2,000 troops to back Congolese President Laurent Kabila in his efforts to stem a yearlong rebel insurrection.

The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance, which currently holds 20 percent of Parliament’s seats, and the Congress of Democrats, a newly formed party of disgruntled SWAPO supporters, dominate the field of seven opposition parties.

First results are due Thursday and final results on Monday.

Update hourly