The South-West Africa People's Organization (SWAPO) is the largest political party, and during the struggle for independence, it was recognized by the OAU and the UN General Assembly as the sole legitimate representative of the Namibian people. SWAPO had a political wing, PLAN, that was engaged in war with South Africa. SWAPO's support comes chiefly from the Ovambo people of the north and from urban areas. The Democratic Turnhalle Alliance (DTA), a white-led amalgam of constituent ethnic parties, was the main opposition party in Namibia's first two elections. It narrowly lost the main opposition role (partly due to early alleged financial links with white South Africa) to the new (formed in March 1999) Congress of Democrats (CoD) in the 1999 elections. Three other parties— the United Democratic Front (UDF), the Monitor Action Group (MAG), and the Democratic Coalition of Namibia—won at least a seat in the 1994 and 1999 elections. There are also several small ethnic parties, most of which were represented in the bodies appointed in 1985.
In the 1989 elections to the constituent assembly, SWAPO gained 41 seats (57.3%); the DTA 21 seats (28.6%); the United Democratic Front, four seats (5.6%); and the Action Christian National, three seats (3.5%). The other parties collectively gained three seats on 5% of the vote.
In the 1994 elections, SWAPO maintained its commanding majority in the assembly, taking 73.9% of the vote, which translated to 53 seats. DTA held 15 seats; United Democratic Front, 2 seats; and one each by the Democratic Coalition of Namibia and the Monitor Action group.
Nujoma and SWAPO hold a monopoly on power in what a specialist on Africa, Mahmood Mamdani, calls the "old nationalist model"—in which the liberation party is "the custodian of the nation, and anyone who disagrees is unpatriotic".
In the November/December 1998 elections for National Council, SWAPO took 21 seats, DTA 4, UDF 1 seat. In the November/December 1999 presidential elections, Nujoma performed even better that in previous elections, winning 76.8% of the vote. Ben Ulenga of the CoD had 10.5%; Katuurike Kaura of DTA, 9.6%; and Chief Justice Garoëb of the UDF, 3%. SWAPO swept 55 of the 72 National Assembly seats; CoD and DTA, got 7 each; UDF, 2; MAG, 1. Next elections were due December 2004.