The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) has asked foreign governments to persuade Botswana’s own to reverse its controversial course on the adoption of electronic voting machines (EVMs).
In a letter written to diplomatic missions in Gaborone, the opposition coalition’s Secretary General, Ndaba Gaolathe, expresses “deep concern about the Government of Botswana’s intention to introduce Electronic Voting Machines as an integral part of the electoral system and election process in readiness for the envisaged watershed elections of 2019.” He asserts that the facts and circumstances both suggest that “Botswana is poised for an immensely flawed and unfair election in 2019, on account of an electoral system that is increasingly going against the practices and spirit of fair-minded democratic constitutions around the world.” In an accompanying paper that he has also authored, the Gaborone Bonnington South MP points out that the use of EVMs has been outlawed in democracies like Germany, Ireland and the Netherlands.
“The inherent properties of the EVMs, the manner of intended implementation, the legal framework within which the EVMs will operate, the improper procurement of the machines and the sheer brute [force] with which the majority vote of the ruling party in Parliament came into play to impose the new legislation to legitimize the use of EVMs all represent a sharp departure from the democratic principles and foundation for which Botswana has been known in the past,” Gaolathe’s letter says.
On the understanding that the relationship of Botswana and these countries is based on “shared and cherished ideals including the freedom of ordinary people to fairly elect a government of their choice”, UDC is appealing to these countries to intervene by way of engaging the Botswana government on this matter. The party has its own set of proposals for how the issue should be resolved. Gaolathe’s letter says that many “fair-minded citizens” feel that if the government does indeed introduce EVMs, then that should happen within the framework of “sound mechanisms and clear provisions” for defined processes and systems. The first is for a vote with a verifiable paper audit trail – in accordance with the court judgements in Germany, India and many more democratic nations. Secondly, there should be fair legal recourse for voters, candidates or any other stakeholders who feel their votes have not been fairly tallied or accounted for. Gaolathe buttresses the latter point by stating that the proposed EVM has no way of verifying that a vote has been counted in favour of the candidate of party it was intended for. Thirdly, the party calls for the establishment of an independent science and technical panel/commission with legally binding powers to declare and act on machines that are corrupted. Finally, initial counting and tallying should take place at all voting stations before machines are transported.
Attached to the letter is a more detailed seven-page summary titled “Introduction of the Electronic Voting Machines in Botswana.” Both documents have been submitted to the diplomatic missions in Gaborone. In line with diplomatic protocols, these missions will, in turn, relay the message to their governments.