Tuesday, May 24, 2022

BDP files another urgent application against Parliament

Botswana on Saturday inched closer to a crisis following an urgent application by Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) for a stay in execution of the High Court Judgement that upheld that voting for the Speaker, deputy Speaker of Parliament and endorsement of Vice President should be by secret ballot and not by a public show of hands. BDP attorneys, Collins Newman & Company on Saturday morning filed an urgent appeal against the judgement by Justice Leburu, Justice Walia and Justice Tau and another application stopping Parliament from going ahead and voting for the Speaker, Deputy Speaker and endorsing the Vice President by secret ballot.

The appeal by the BDP means that Parliament cannot function and the country will be without a vice president for a few more days. During the case, government lawyer Morulaganye Chamme agreed with the BDP that the case struck at the heart of parliament’s ability to function, as it could not resume business until a speaker was appointed. Government also argued that a vice-president has to be picked soonest to avoid a constitutional crisis in the event the president died. The High Court in Gaborone on Friday rebuffed an attempt by the Attorney General and the BDP to change voting rules in Parliament so thatlawmakers would vote by a show of hands for Speaker, Deputy Speaker and Vice President instead of through a secret ballot. “A secret ballot is a hallmark of a free and fair election within our representative democracy,” said Justice Michael Leburu in the Gaborone High Court.

“The right to vote is an indispensable feature of our democracy. It is therefore important that voting must be free from intimidation and or coercion.” Parliament’s rules provide for secret ballot voting for the vice president, the speaker and deputy speaker of parliament. But government and ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) lawyers argued in court that this went against the “open and transparent” aspirations of the constitution.

Justice Leburu agreed with UDC and BCP lawyers that BCP and UDC that the secret ballot protected lawmakers from undue influence. The court further confirmed that “Parliament has the necessary power and standing to regulate its own affairs.”

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