We wish to pay tribute to the Independent Electoral Commission for showing fortitude and determination in their efforts to stem voter apathy and register high numbers of voters in preparation for the coming General election.
While there is general voter apathy afflicting Botswana’s electoral system, attracting the youth to the polling booths has for a number of years now proved an engendered problem.
It remains our hope that this year’s election will be different.
This week, the Independent Electoral Commission announced the commencement of a last round voter registration exercise.
The IEC has, over the past 12 months or so, done a commendable job in trying to entice voters to come forward and register in high numbers ahead of the polls scheduled for October.
To achieve this very difficult task, the IEC started off by setting itself a very ambitious target.
The target set by the IEC was so high that at the beginning, many of the skeptics amongst us were quick to dismiss the Commission as doing just one of its usual public relations exercises.
When the IEC took a breather to announce how many they had registered so far, it suddenly dawned on many of us that this time around the Commission meant business.
The Commission’s campaign has been steadfast and concerted and by the look of things it has paid off.
According to information from the IEC, the current window of registration, which will be the last, will run until the end of the month.
This is a long enough time for people to register, not least because the registration points will be evenly spread across the country.
Given the amount of time voters have been afforded to register with the IEC, there simply can be no excuse this time around.
As a newspaper, we will not be endorsing any particular party or candidate.
We call on Batswana to go out in high numbers to vote for parties and candidates with whom they feel comfortable with.
We join the IEC in calling all the eligible voters who have not yet registered to take this last window of opportunity to register so that they could later in the year exercise their inalienable right to vote parties and candidates of their choice.
All of a sudden, it looks as though the election will not be as boring as we had initially feared.
This is despite (not because) political parties.
Political parties in Botswana are a real disgrace.
While we note with gratitude that the IEC has been at the forefront of efforts to bring back people to the polling station, it is regrettable that the Commission has not been met halfway by political parties.
As a general rule, Botswana’s political parties do not take themselves seriously.
It, therefore, does not come as a surprise that voters in turn do not take the parties seriously.
Many people wish they could go and vote, but then they look around and they do not get to see what it is that our political parties really stand for.
Inevitably, this makes the IEC job all the harder.
It, therefore, is not an exaggeration to state that the IEC should take all the credit since it has single handedly delivered the voters despite no assistance forthcoming from political parties.
The IEC has achieved this feat as a result of flexibility and imagination.
While in the past they set and imposed some of the silliest deadlines, this time around they were more flexible.
No doubt it has been a costly gesture, but then democracy never comes cheap.
Registration is a very integral component of the electoral system.
The higher the number of people registered, the higher the number of people who will eventually come out to actually vote.
It, therefore, is not an exaggeration to say the ultimate mandate won by governments has its roots on the number of people who would have taken the pain to register.
Like low voter turnouts, low voter registration figures tend to undermine the very essence of democracy.
Having said that, we want to urge our political leaders that post-elections, conditions should be cultivated to allow for a national debate on electoral reforms.
This is an issue that should be approached with restraint and fair-mindedness.
As a nation, we should avoid prescriptions on this topic.
We say so because for the debate to be meaningful, it has to be tolerant and courteous while remaining robust.