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A call for Electoral Act amendment

TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE
Electorates queuing ti cast their votes in Artesia
Political analyst, Anthony Morima, has called for amendment of Electoral Act. He says certain sections in the Act need to be reviewed because in the near future those who are ruling will use it to their own advantage. Staff Writer TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE looks into the matter

“The amendment of the Act should be done in a way of giving the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) powers to issue the writ of elections.  If the writ is issued by politicians like the Minister of Local Government and the President for Council and Parliamentary elections respectively, the politicians are likely to only issue the writ when they believe that their political party is ready for the elections,” Morima said.

He said failure by Section 34 to give time frame for by-election for a constituency leaves a lot to be desired. 

Though local government Act has time frame but for the fact that it is the Minister who issues a writ could disadvantage other parties.

“No, it not fair for either the President or the Minister of Local Government to issue the Writ because, as politicians, they are likely to be influenced by political considerations in issuing the writ.

For instance, if their party is not ready for the elections, such as due to infighting, they may delay issuing the Writ or revoke it if it has already been issued.”

For instance, in 2013, following a petition calling for the nullification of the existing writ and for a fresh Writ for the Francistown West by-election to allow the ruling party to participate, the then Vice President Ponatshego Kedikilwe invoked Section 46 of the Electoral Act a day before the by-elections.

The elections were postponed from November 23, 2013 to January 25, 2014, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.

“In my view, the President did not invoke the section in the public interest, but to ensure that his party’s candidate participates in the by-elections following the IEC’s refusal to accept its nominee pursuant to a High Court Order barring the other candidate from registering as a candidate,” he said.  

Also, the ruling party may issue the writ in haste if their political party is enjoying a surge in support and the opposition is facing political problems

Indeed, the country may be held at ransom, resulting in a constitutional crisis.

For instance, if the ruling party has a slim majority and it knows that it will almost certainly lose a

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by-election it is likely to delay issuing the writ until the next general elections, especially in the case of Parliamentary elections where there is no time frame within which the Writ should be issued.

If this happens, as it once did in Gaborone West constituency where following the death of its Member of Parliament, Paul Rantao, the by-elections were delayed for six months.

Needless to say that this affected the voters, who remained in suspense without a representative in Parliament.     

“Indeed, the country may be held at ransom, resulting in a constitutional crisis. For instance, if the ruling party has a slim majority and it knows that it will almost certainly lose a by-election it is likely to delay issuing the Writ until the next general elections, especially in the case of Parliamentary elections where there is no time frame within which the Writ should be issued,” he said.

He said the current scenario negates our democracy since it affects the fairness of our elections.

 While our elections may be free, they may not be fair to the extent the ruling party may manipulate the issuance of a writ of elections for political expediency.

“I agree with Tshosa (2007), quoted by Dr. Monageng Mogalakwe in his article - An assessment of Botswana's electoral management body to deliver fair elections, Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 33:1,105-120, DOI: 10.1080/02589001.2015.1021210 - where he said ‘...this is another instance of the unfairness, rather than the unfreeness, of the elections process in Botswana...’,” he said.

Morima said opposition parties may be affected in that they may end up losing an election which they otherwise would have won simply because the ruling party manipulated the circumstances, for example timing to its advantage and to the detriment of the opposition.

Imagine a situation where the ruling party delays issuing the writ until such time that there is conflict and upheaval in the opposition, he said.

“In my view, to confirm that we are indeed the internationally acclaimed democracy, which prides itself with, inter alia, free and fair elections, we need to amend the Act to provide that the writ is issued by the Independent Electoral Commission,” he said.



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