In an interesting turn of events, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is still to engage with government to look into the Electoral Amendment Bill which was passed recently paving way for electronic voting machines.
Sources within the party claimed this week that while the party may not join the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) in petitioning the Minister of Presidential Affairs and Public Administration Eric Molale to convene a meeting of all party conference in respect to the electoral Amendment Bill, 2016, the issue is likely to polarise the party.
BDP secretary general Botsalo Ntuane told The Telegraph in an interview that the Electoral Amendment Bill is at Government level and as the party they never got chance to scrutinize the Bill at party level.
“Just like any other political party affected we need prior knowledge of the Bill but at the moment we don’t have a position on whether to support the move called by Botswana Congress Party requesting the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Molale to convene a meeting of all party conference in respect of the Electoral Amendment Bill,” said Ntuane.
Ntuane was commenting on a letter addressed to President Ian Khama from Botswana Congress Party President Dumelang Saleshando requesting President Khama to ensure an All Party Conference to dialogue on the newly introduced voting machines and methods of voting, as well as deletion of provisions for supplementary voter registration.
A similar letter was also addressed to Molale and copied to all political parties. In the letter the BCP says matters of electoral process such as the one covered in the Electoral Amendment Bill, including but not limited to electoral voting and deletion of supplementary voter registration go to the credibility of a poll taken and legitimacy of a government and it is for this reason that they must always be approached with bi-partisan or national, rather than partisan outlook.
The BCP says the previous leaders in the past convened all party conference meetings to deal with electoral issues relating to voting, extension of the right to vote to those residing outside the country and the establishment of the Independent Electoral Commission.
BCP leader argues further in the letter that the provision in the constitution, of an all party conference meeting of all registered parties as regards electoral issues was intended to achieve as much consensus as possible, regardless of whether a party was represented in the National Assembly or not.
Saleshando wants Khama to draw his attention on the serious implications the Bill has for the conduct of elections in Botswana in so far as it seeks to change the method of voting through a ballot paper and a ballot box to electronic voting through Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs).
Presenting the Bill through a certificate of urgency without consultations with key stake holders such as Political Parties is of great concern to the BCP. In addition the BCP says Members of Parliament were not given the opportunity to consult the electorate as is common practice.
Botswana Congress Party is still awaiting response from President Ian Khama and the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Molale.