Parties win poll appeal By: WERNER MENGES THE case in which nine opposition parties are challenging the conduct of Namibias National Assembly election late last year has been sent back to the High Court. In a judgement given in the Supreme Court yesterday, the nine parties won their appeal against the High Court ruling in which their challenge to both the National Assembly and the presidential elections was struck from the court roll on March 4. That decision to strike the parties application from the court roll on the grounds that it had been filed ninety minutes late in terms of the High Court rules, was wrong, five judges of the Supreme Court agreed in a unanimous decision. In a departure from normal procedure, Chief Justice Peter Shivute read the courts judgement in full, rather than just its conclusion, when the decision was announced yesterday. The judgement is a joint decision of the court, consisting of Chief Justice Shivute, Judge of Appeal Gerhard Maritz, and Acting Judges of Appeal Fred Chomba, Simpson Mtambanengwe and Pius Langa. The court allowed the parties appeal, and ordered the Electoral Commission of Namibia and Swapo, who opposed the parties application to have the National Assembly and presidential elections set aside or get a recount of votes cast in those elections, to pay the parties legal costs in the appeal. The court sent the case back to the High Court, which must now make a decision on the merits of the challenge to the National Assembly election. The parties did not appeal against the High Courts ruling with respect to the presidential election. Judge President Petrus Damaseb and Judge Collins Parker, who heard the matter at the beginning of March, will now have to give a judgement on the merits of the election challenge, which were left undecided in the ruling given on March 4. The merits were also argued before the two judges six months ago. The possibility that Judge President Damaseb might not continue to sit on the case was, however, raised in a statement issued by the Registrar of the High Court yesterday. According to the statement the Judge President yesterday directed a letter to the lawyers of the nine parties, to ask them to indicate whether they want him to recuse himself from the case. This is as a result of a disagreement that arose between the Judge President and the parties after the March 4 ruling, when it was reported in two newspapers that the parties had issued a joint statement, in which they accused the Judge President of having contradicted himself over the filing of the election challenge with the office of the Registrar. The parties later issued a public apology and retraction of their statement. In the letter to the parties lawyer, Judge President Damaseb asked them to urgently get instructions from the parties on the question whether they have any objections to him participating in the case on the merits. Although I personally see no impediment in my so participating, I wish to give the applicants the choice in the matter, the Judge President stated.