Monday, September 28, 2020

IEC should be detached from OP

This week, as Members of Parliament were discussing the budget proposal for the Independent Electoral Commission, it became clear that not all is well in that all important office.

Members from across the divide, including surprisingly from the ruling party, decried the fact that the IEC is still to be formally detached from the shackles of the Office of the President.
They also talked at length about how the IEC Secretary and his Deputy have become little Gods; giving themselves all privileges at the total exclusion of their juniors.

From time to time, the responsible minister attempted interjections, but it was a lost cause ÔÇô more like trying to defend the indefensible.
In some instances, Daniel Kwelagobe came across as a man who had been forced to justify a cause he did not personally believe.

The truth of the matter is that reforms at the IEC are long overdue.
It’s been years that many stakeholders have been calling for the reform of the Electoral Act.
Many workshops have been held, but no amendments have since been brought before parliament.
In the past, many researchers and, indeed, election observers have left Botswana Polling stations only to complain that the IEC is not as independent as it should be in a democracy.

The biggest fault found against the IEC is, of course, the way the Commissioners are appointed.
Another gripe has to do with how the Secretary of the Commission is appointed.
Too much power still resides with the Office of the President.
Suggestions have been made to the Office of the President to show some faith in other people other than themselves.
This means leaving the appointment of the Secretary to the Commissioners themselves.

After all, the Commission, led by a High Court judge, is made up of the country’s most credible and respected individuals.
Resisting calls to let go of the powers to appoint the Secretary smacks of arrogance.

It was long accepted that the Office of the President is made up of some of the worst control freaks the civil service has known in a long time.
Of course, there are also suspicions of ulterior motives.

We should never forget the simple fact that however one wants to look at it, the President is first and foremost a politician, a contender for power whose fundamental preoccupation is own political survival and that of his party.

His eyes are always set on ensuring that the duo remains in office.
Such a person, when faced with the reality of losing political power, would as human nature tamper with the levers of power to avert the tragedy.
There are many flaws in our Electoral Act that, if not urgently addressed, could spark disturbances that could easily be avoided.

First, there is voter apathy. Voter apathy has to be addressed if the outcomes of our electoral processes are to gain more respectability.
Then there is voter trafficking.
Voter trafficking is at its worst during by-elections.
Surely, the law can be amended to control this scourge which has the potential to undermine the integrity of our election results.
We have seen other countries burn as a result of a lack of confidence in the Electoral Commissions.

We should do everything in our power to avoid such evils coming our way.
With elections due next year, these very important outstanding matters, which would go a long way in enriching our democracy, should be addressed.
It is not clear why it’s taking so long given that the IEC has already assembled proposals from stakeholders that matter.
We can only hope that the Minister was listening to concerns by MPs who, by the way, are stronger among the voting masses.

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Sunday Standard September 27 – 3 October

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of September 27 - 3 October, 2020.