Wednesday, May 29, 2024

BCP questions IEC independence

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) this week came up with a report questioning the independence of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC). Presenting the party’s ‘Democracy Alert’, a document which the party releases outlining the deficiencies in Botswana’s democracy, BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando said despite section 5 (1) of the Electoral Act vesting all powers in the IEC to determine the number of council wards in a constituency as it may deem fit, the IEC in 2012 stated that they were directed by the Minister of Local Government not to increase the number of wards, following the publication of the delimitation Report.

“Instead the IEC was given a quota for the number of wards per constituency. This is a direct and outright interference with the electoral process by the political powers. This is consistent with the President Khama’s views that there should not be an increase of constituencies because of the recession,” he charged. Saleshando said it has become irrelevant whether the IEC finds it necessary to alter the number of wards in a particular constituency or not because the Ministry of Local Government have arrogated itself that responsibility. “If the Ministry of Local Government can act so blatantly by directing the IEC on how to act on matters that fall squarely within the domain of the IEC, it begs the question “Where is the independence of the IEC?. And what insulates it from being directed to pursue the interests of the ruling party?” The IEC obviously does not have the necessary independence or the clout to refuse such instructions from the Minister,” he said. Minister of Local Government, Peter Siele has, however, denied instructing IEC not to increase the number of council wards. “It is utter rubbish. Where do I get those powers? I do not have constitutional mandate to do that,” he charged.

Siele said IEC is independent and not only independent by its name. He said the secretary of IEC consults before making a decision of whether to increase wards or not. Asked who the secretary consults, Siele said he did not want to implicate anyone but referred all the questions to the secretary of IEC. “Find out from Seeletso,” he said. However the secretary of IEC, Gabriel Seeletso refused to comment saying he has not received the BCP report. Saleshando told this publication in an interview that, Seeletso had told them in an All Party Caucus that he was instructed not to increase the number of wards. He also said Siele was present at that meeting.

Touching on the delimitation commission report, Saleshando said following the 2011 Population and Housing Census, most stakeholders expected an increase in the number of constituencies as a result of the increase in the population. He said despite compelling reasons for an increase in the number of constituencies the ruling party arbitrarily decided not to do so. The BCP leader said his party had proposed that the number constituencies be increased from 57 to 69 to achieve a more representative democracy, instead, the BDP increased the quota for a parliamentary constituency from 29 000 to 35 000 people. “In their irrational decision government ignored population density, community of interest, and geographical spread, the key determinants of curving out constituencies.

The view of the BCP is that the decision not to increase the number of constituencies was politically motivated. According to the population and housing census significant population growth occurred around the main peri-urban centers that have a strong BCP support base,” he said.


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