The Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration, Lesego Motsumi, has expressed worry at the low numbers of voters who cast their votes in the external voting exercise.
Motsumi said on Monday that it is disappointing that despite the high cost of the exercise, only a small percentage of registered external voters cast their vote.
“My office and the IEC will continue to engage members of this house and other stakeholders to search for available options through which we can minimize the cost of conducting elections abroad,” she said.
In the 2009 general elections, 1 646 non-resident Batswana registered to vote and but only 571 cast their votes. This translates to 34,7 % of the registered voters.
A total of P1, 8 million was spent on the preparations and conducting of the exercise, such that the unit cost of the election was approximately P3, 152.36 per voter. This is very high, compared to the unit cost of P60 incurred in holding elections in the country.
“If all the 1646 registered voters had cast their ballots, the unit cost would have been approximately a third of the incurred cost. The overall cost of general election in Botswana is estimated at over P33 million,” said Motsumi, adding that a total of over 700 000 people registered to vote, which translates to 69% of the eligible voters. Of these over 500 000 or 76, 5% voted in the 2009 general elections.
Following the amendment of the electoral act to separate the counting of local government ballots from those of national assembly ballots, an additional 490 counting centers were established, resulting in just as many returning officers engaged to oversee the counting process.
Motsumi was responding to a question by Moeng Pheto as to the sustainability of the external voting exercise, its cost implications and whether government had plans to shelve it. But Motsumi maintained that the right to vote is enshrined in the constitution and, therefore, there is no way government can abolish external voting.
“The question of sustainability is a much larger one as it may be akin to asking whether democracy itself is sustainable,” said Motsumi.