AU calls on Botswana to introduce political party funding
Gaborone – The African Union on Monday called on the Botswana government to introduce political party funding to improve fairness in the electoral process.
Speaking at a press conference, former Malawian leader Joyce Banda, who led the AU election observer mission to Botswana’s general elections last month, said although the October 24 polls were free and fair, there was need to level the playing ground by funding all political parties.
She said the elections were transparent and fair because they were held in such a way that allowed the electorate to participate in the electoral process.
The AU mission, however, called on Botswana’s Independent Electoral Commission to change the manner in which ballots are counted and the results are posted.
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party, which retained power by winning 37 out of the 57 constituencies, has been accused of using state resources at the disadvantage of opposition.
The opposition for the first time has 20 seats in Parliament, which is the biggest number since the country obtained independence from Britain in 1966.
Banda also took issue with what she called the relatively low presence of citizen observer groups at polling stations.
“The mission notes the low presence of citizen observer groups at polling stations, this is a noteworthy observation since the participation of citizen observers is crucial for the reinforcement of the credibility and legitimacy of the electoral process,” she observed.
She, however, paid tribute to the IEC for its efforts to ensure that the elections are run in due process.
Banda noted that party and candidate agents were present at all polling stations visited by the AUEOM and seemed aware of their roles and responsibilities.
While the voters’ rolls clearly showed that women constitute the majority of the voters in Botswana, Banda said, it was not reflected in the political parties’ nomination for candidates for both offices of the President and National Assembly.
The final roll, which was published after the amalgamation process, had 824 424 registered voters ‑ 368 347 males and 456 087 females.
However, the mission, Banda said, commended the effort by the IEC to include minority groups in the electoral process.
“For instance, for these elections the commission developed a special ballot paper to assist visually impaired persons,” said Banda.
She added that over 98 percent of the polling stations they visited opened on time. She also mentioned that there were visible queues outside all the polling stations, which she said were managed in an orderly manner by the officials, assisted by the police officers.
“We noted a generally calm and orderly atmosphere around the polling stations prior to and during the opening process. The atmosphere in all polling stations was peaceful, we note with satisfaction that the conduct of polling officials, voters, and party agents were in accordance with procedures thus voters were able to cast their vote within a reasonable period of time,” said Banda.
For her part, the head of Southern African Development Community (SADC) Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM) and Minister of International Relations and Co-operation in South Africa, Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said that they too noted that the election process was peaceful, free and fair, transparent and credible, thus reflecting the will of the people of Botswana in accordance with the national electoral laws and the SADC principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.
“Some of the best practices we observed include freedom of association and expression during the electoral campaigns. Political tolerance demonstrated during the campaign period, as members of competing parties were able to interact with each other in a positive and mature manner even at rallies,” she said.
While Nkoana-Mashabane commended IEC, saying that there was generally a peaceful political environment throughout the electoral period, she advised the commission to consider the use of indelible ink to prevent double voting under any circumstances.
She also urged the IEC to consider the use of a scanner to scan the identity document of the voter to prevent double voting as well as a concerted effort to encourage women to stand as political candidates.