Sunday, May 22, 2022

‘Lame duck’ Khama faces struggle to push through new agenda

President Lt Gen Ian Khama faces a lame duck term after the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) back bench lost ground to an unprecedented surge in opposition backbench in Friday’s general elections.

Khama who was the party and government strongman went to this week’s elections already transformed into a lame-duck president following a parliamentary vote that effectively stripped him of powers to decide his Vice President and Speaker of the national assembly.

BDP lawyers, Collins Newman & Co are this week expected to file an urgent application with the High Court in a bid to reverse a recent amendment to the provisions of the Parliament Standing Orders on the election of the Speaker, deputy Speaker and endorsement of the appointment of the Vice President.

Presenting a motion for adoption Tswapong North, Mr Prince Maele said the object of the amendments was to enhance the integrity of the process of the election of a Speaker, Deputy Speaker and the endorsement of the appointment of the Vice President.

The amendment ensures that the election of the speaker and the endorsement of the president’s choice of Vice President are made by secret ballot instead of by show of hand. The amendment takes away the president, and parliamentary caucuses’ power to enforce collective decisions on the vote for parliament speaker and endorsement of Vice President. President Khama has kept his preferred vice president a secret and was hoping to coerce party members into endorsing his choice and that of house speaker.

Scores of BDP MPs are understood to be rooting for Margaret Nasha to retain her position of speaker much against president Khama’s will. Party MPs are also expected to break ranks with Khama when parliament is asked to endorse his choice of vice president.

BDP lawyers, Collins Newman & Co have already notified the Speaker, Margaret Nasha and President Khama of their intention to file the urgent application before parliament meets to decide the new speaker, deputy speaker and vice president.

Presenting a motion two months ago to amend the Parliament Standing Orders, BDP member of Parliament, Price Maele pointed out that “In terms of the provisions of Standing Orders 4.5, 4.6 and 6.1 the election of a Speaker and Deputy Speaker as well as the endorsement of the appointment of the Vice President are fundamentally carried out by the way of a secret ballot. The draft proposed amendments introduce further provisions to enhance the confidentiality of the conduct of the members poll, by providing for each member to mark his/ her ballot paper whilst inside of an electoral booth,” he said.

Mr Maele explained that the electoral booth shall be placed in the house for the duration of the sitting of the house at such position as the clerk shall determine.

“A member having marked their ballot paper shall then proceed from the electoral booth and cast their ballot paper in a ballot box which shall be kept in full view of the house until conclusion of the ballot,” he added.

The new clauses read; 4.5 “The Clerk shall prepare, prior to the meeting of the house, ballot papers upon which shall be shown the names of all candidates validly nominated under paragraph (4) of this standing order and, shall at the commencement of the ballot announce the names of the candidates validly nominated, and cause their names to be visibly displayed in full view of the members for the duration of the conduct of the ballot.

Clause 4.6 “the clerk shall upon the members in alphabetical order cast their vote, whereupon each member shall in turn collect from the clerk not more than one ballot paper and proceed to the electoral booth placed in the house, and shall therein mark his or her ballot paper by placing a tick in the space opposite the name of the candidate for whom he/ she wishes to vote, and thereafter shall proceed from the electoral booth and cast his or her ballot paper in the ballot box.

Clause 6.1 “subject to the provisions of section 39 (1) of the Constitution, the National Assembly shall endorse the appointment of the Vice President by each elected member of the National Assembly voting by secret ballot.

The process of voting contained in the provisions of standing order 4.5 and 4.6 shall apply in the secret ballot voting for the endorsement of the appointment of the Vice President, save that the Speaker shall preside over such vote”.

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