Members of Parliament (MP) across the political divide have called for better funding of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in order to protect and improve the country’s democracy.
Debating the commission’s budget proposals for the financial year 2019-2020, MPs said democracy is an expensive exercise, but also very critical to the country’s economic growth.
They also said the independence of the IEC is doubtful as it falls under the Office of the President.
President of the Alliance for Progressives (AP) and minority leader in Parliament, Ndaba Gaolathe said the commission is at the heart of the country’s democracy hence it should get proper and adequate resources to build it into a strong institution.
He said the IEC’s main job is to create a fair playing field for all parties participating in elections as well as ensuring that ordinary people have access to information about elections.
“But the budget is far too inadequate to build an institution to protect democracy. It doesn’t hit you anymore that there is an election coming and it is your responsibility to vote. You don’t feel that anymore because the commission is not able to give out that information.
You do not see those adverts anywhere around. Fund IEC so that it makes people aware of what is happening,” he said.
The Gaborone Bonnington South legislator also said supplementary voter registrations are discriminatory to the blue-collar workers. He said workers who work from five to five are left out by the system because by the time they knock-off, the IEC designated places for supplementary voter registration would have closed.
“These people are left behind and are unable to take part in the process because the IEC system is discriminatory to them,” he said.
He stated that while there is another Supplementary Voter Registration coming, the commission should create flexible systems to cater for the blue-collar workers. Furthermore, he said there is need to train IEC employees to understand the delicacy of the electoral process.
“Your employees are not communicating properly with voters. There are reports of abuse by officers,” he said. Gaolathe said it is wrong for the IEC to be under the executive arm of government, as the IEC now owes allegiance to the latter.
MP for Francistown East Buti Billy said the IEC should be taken away from the Office of the President to an independent institution so that it carries its mandate without fear or favour.
He said, as it is, the general public and politicians have doubt over its independence, which is not good for democracy.
“Fund it so that it carries its mandate properly. It should also be able to plan for elections on time, but without resources it is hard. The IEC is tasked with protecting our democracy and we are where we are because of how it has done things over time,” Billy said.
Lerala-Maunatlala legislator Prince Maele called for the introduction of the Code of Conduct for politicians in order to overcome voter apathy. He also said that there is need for the establishment of the Special Electoral Court to deal with cases related to elections.
In response to the MPs, the Minister for Presidential Affairs, Governance and Public Administration Nonofo Molefhi said while he appreciates that the IEC budget is not adequate, political parties create most problems in the election process.
He said the desire of political parties to win elections at all costs is a headache to IEC and contaminates the election process.
“Politicians can do anything just to win elections. I am talking from what I have seen during elections. There are cases reported relating to elections caused by this desire,” he said.
Meanwhile, Molefhi proposed P67,611,320 for the IEC recurrent budget and P230,707,270 for development budget for financial year 2019-2020.