A newly released report has found that the decision by Botswana’s opposition parties to declare the 2019 fraudulent has dented Botswana’s democratic elections.
The report, which is part of the Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation Index (BTI) 2022, noted that the 2019 elections were different because the main opposition parties (UDC and BPF) considered the results to have been fraudulent, and unsuccessfully petitioned the High Court to overturn 19 parliamentary results and several local council results in November 2020.
According to the report, this was the highest number of election petitions ever registered. It says an appeal submitted by the UDC to the Court of Appeal, the country’s highest court, was unsuccessful, as the court declared that it had no authority over election petitions.
“Declaring the election outcome“fraudulent” dented Botswana’s acclaimed democratic credentials. The [Botswana Democratic Party](BDP)’s popular vote, which had declined in previous elections, increased slightly to 53% in 2019,” the report says.
It says the UDC, Alliance for Progressives (AP) and BPF secured 36% (15 seats), 5% (one seat) and 4% (three seats) of the popular vote, respectively. Although the election outcome was contested, the report says, there was no violence.
“However, there were unsubstantiated reports that threats had been made against President Masisi’s life, propelled by the Directorate on Intelligence and Security Services (DISS) under the leadership of Peter Magosi,” the report says.
Interestingly, it says, the government did not repudiate these reports. Concerns about the unfairness of the electoral process have persisted, the report says.
“The opposition also claimed that several government agencies, especially the DIS and the Botswana Unified Revenue Service (BURS), had influenced the results of the 2019 elections and worked against the opposition,” the report says’
However, outside observers considered the vote to be credible, the report found.
The Bertelsmann Stiftung’s Transformation report says since the last review period, the power of elected political representatives to govern appears to have deteriorated, with President Masisi seeming to be as intolerant of his opponents as former President Khama.
It says the director general of the DISS, Peter Magosi, appears to be above the rules, as he has continuously undermined fundamental elements of democratic procedures and institutions, including the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Crime (DCEC).
“President Masisi has ignored calls to dismiss Peter Magosi. Botswana’s powerful executive presidency has continued to dominate the country’s overly weak parliament. The power of elected representatives was further undermined by President Masisi’s declaration of a state of public emergency in order to control Covid-19,” the report says.
It says the state of emergency was introduced for an initial six months from April 2, 2020, and subsequently extended by a further six months to March 2021. However, COVID-19 has continued to spread, despite the state of emergency.
“Effective power to govern 10 Associational and assembly rights are secured by the constitution. However, the enjoyment of these rights has been hampered by the state of public emergency and several associated regulations,” the report says.
The state of emergency was initially introduced for six months from April 2, 2020, but later extended by a further six months to March 2021, in order to contain COVID-19.
“As a result of the restrictions placed on associational and assembly rights by the state of emergency regulations, political parties postponed their party congresses from 2020 to 2021,” the report says.
It found that although President Masisi pledged to revive the Public Service Bargaining Council (PSBC) after assuming office in April 2018, this pledge has yet to be realized. In October 2020, the Botswana Federation of Public, Private and Parastatal Sector Unions (BOFEPUSU) claimed that the country faced “a leadership vacuum” due to the government’s failure to restore the PSBC.
This suggests that relations between the government and the BOFEPUSU remain frosty, even under President Masisi’s government, the report says.