Wednesday, November 25, 2020

IEC audit calls for direct election of the president, funding of political parties

A perfomance audit of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recommended groundbreaking electoral reforms, among them funding of opposition parties and the direct elections of the president.

The audit report, which has been passed to the IEC, recommends that, “Botswana should consider introducing state funding for political parties. The failure to do so imposes serious constraints on the consolidation of competitive politics in the country. Countries in the region, which make provision for such funding include Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia and South Africa,” stated the performance audit report.

Lately, there has been growing calls for political party funding in the wake of last year’s recommendation by the African Union (AU) observer mission.

Addressing the press after the last general elections, the head of the mission, Dr Brigalia Bam, who is also chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, said that the funding should be done “based on fair and equitable formula that aim to strengthen the participation of political parties in the democratization process of the country.”

The AU mission recommended that consideration should be made for appropriate legislation, regulation or code of conduct that would ensure equal and equitable media coverage of all political parties, particularly during the electioneering period.

The mission called for the counting of votes to be done at the polling stations and not at designated centers. It recommended the use of indelible ink in line with international practice to enhance transparency and avoid cheating. It said results should be displayed at each and every polling station for easy access to the public.

The IEC performance audit report has also recommended that, “in the interest of strengthening Botswana’s democracy and removing any doubts Botswana may wish to consider amending the Constitution to provide for the election of the president by popular vote”.

Although this will add to the cost of the electoral process and will increase the workload of the IEC, it is worth exploring. Botswana government is, however, resisting the proposal for direct election of the president.

A motion tabled by former Gaborone South MP, Akanyang Magama, calling for an amendment of the electoral Act to allow for the direct election of the president was shot down by ruling party members of parliament.

The then Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Daniel Kwelagobe, told parliament that Botswana was not ready to introduce the direct election of the president and funding of political parties.

Kwelagobe was responding to MPs’ comments on a bill to amend the Electoral Act.
The report also recommended “the need for Botswana to demonstrate unreserved commitment to promoting equitable access by all electoral contestants to the media, especially the public media”.
The audit report further stated that voting rights for prisoners; better system for Diaspora voting; controls on election expenditure; better framework for IEC independence and undue influence on voters “could be considered and appropriate changes made to the Electoral Act”.

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