Saturday, September 19, 2020

The burden of proof is on the IEC

The supplementary registration for this year’s General Election has come and gone.

In the next few days we will hear from the Independent Electoral Commission how many Batswana have thus far registered.

It will also be important to know how the number of those that registered compares to the target that IEC had set itself at the beginning of the whole process.

While IEC is still busy reconciling their statistics, there is already a barrage of criticism on why there is so much little public interest.

Our view is that while much of that criticism has been targeted at the IEC the real culprits should have been political parties and politicians.

But as Election Day draws closer, attention will and should naturally shift away from political parties and towards the IEC to prove that they are ready to conduct elections.

It will be interesting if in the next few months the IEC is strong enough to withstand growing public scrutiny without resorting to unhelpful technicalities and defensiveness thus far exhibited.

If recent answers provided by IEC Chief Executive are anything to go by, then the next few months will be full of disappointments for the public in as far as elections conduct is concerned.

In his rare public interactions with the media, Mr. Gabriel Seeletso has been defensive, prickly and in most instance ready and willing to resort to unhelpful technicalities.

For example he has not come out to say why the IEC has failed to sufficiently publicise the voter registration.
It cannot be acceptable, much less honest to say money has been the reason.

What is the job of Radio Botswana, Botswana television, RB 2 and daily News if they cannot help publicise a centerpiece of our democracy that is national elections?

That said it would be unfair to IEC to hold them wholly accountable for clear high levels of voter apathy currently besieging us as a nation.

The level of apathy is a direct result of untrustworthiness of our politicians.

The unprincipled nature of our politicians and especially their readiness to take the voter for granted as manifested by numerous cases of defections are at the heart of the apathy.

If history is to provide any lesson for the future, the IEC will be well advised to do all its preparations as early as now and avoid late-hour glitches that are not only embarrassing but also problematic in as far as they impugn and cast doubts and aspersions on the integrity of the electoral process.

Our memories are still fresh how in the build-up to the immediate past General elections, electoral papers were not delivered until the last very days, on account, we were told of printing press mishaps.

We all know what the upshot of that glitch was and can only hope that it does not happen again.

Already there is anxiety over when the IEC will release the voters’ roll for public inspection.

This is very important.

It is now many months since the first round of registration happened.

No plausible, much less valid reason has been advanced as to why the voters roll is still not yet out.

We want to remind the IEC that any mishaps that undermine the integrity of a General Election are a serious national security issue that cannot go unpunished.

What is important is for IEC to be always upfront with information on how their preparations are progressing.

An impression should not be created that somehow the IEC is only sharing with officials at the Office of the president, who by the way are the Commission’s admini8srtrative and political principals.

When it comes to elections, the IEC is well advised to always bear in mind that the Heads of State is a political contender and should at all material times be treated as such; which is to say equally as all the other contenders.

It does not help to privately brief his aides at the exclusion of everyone else when it well known that all such aides are in fact political appointees.

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