SELEBI-PHIKWE: The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has expressed concern that the case in which Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has approached the High Court contesting the constitutionality of the amendment of the Electoral Act of 2016 could have an effect on preparations for the 2019 general elections.
BCP is strongly opposed to the amendment that has recommended the use of electronic voting machines and the case is before the Francistown High Court.
The deputy secretary of the IEC, Doreen Serumola said the National Amalgamated Local and Central Government and Parastatals Workers Union has also lodged a case similar with the courts.
“The new case has the possibility of delaying the disposal of the matter further. These cases have effects on the preparations for the 2019 general elections,” she said.
Addressing civic leaders in the town on Wednesday, she also stated that the Commission has been inundated with a high number of by-elections since 2014. To date the Commission held 13 by-elections; 11 local government and two parliamentary.
Two more are pending being Moshupa-Manyana constituency slated for June 16 and the one in Ramokgwebana polling district that is still awaiting issuance of election instrument.
Serumola said they have also observed a very low voter turnout compared to that of 2014 and said this calls for robust efforts for all stakeholders to promote participation in elections.
Sekoma by-election experienced a decline of 83% compared to 90.6% turnout in 2014 general elections. Moselewapula numbers dropped from 76% to 43% while elsewhere, the numbers dropped from 86.6% to 68%. Another serious decline has been experienced in Mochudi East where turnout for by-elections dropped to 39% from 86% in 2014.
She further said there is an unprecedented number of duplicate voter registration
“This attracts a lot of manpower which could be deployed for voter education. There is a serious need for sensitisation about safekeeping and relevance of the voter registration cards,” she said. Serumola added that they observed a serious contravention of the Electoral Act that requires that secrecy of what happens in polling stations or voting centres be maintained, during the by-elections.
She cited that polling agents gave out names of voters who have cast their votes in order to determine those who have not voted.
She said agents and journalists at counting centres communicated counting updates on various media platforms against Section 149 of the Electoral Act.
“If convicted the perpetrators are liable to a fine not exceeding P100 or six months jail term or both.
Candidates and agents who keep voters’ registration cards and identity cards until election day are also liable to a fine not exceeding P1,000 or six months in jail,” she said.
She noted that the IEC has set September 3 to November 11 period for general voter registration and that their projections are that all the 1,592,350 Batswana who are eligible to vote would register for general elections.
“The registration period has been lengthened to provide enough window for registration in case the Electoral Act of 2016 comes into effect. The Act has no commencement date yet,” she added.