AU declare elections peaceful and transparent
The African Union Election Observation Mission (AUEOM) preliminary statement has declared the Botswana general elections peaceful and transparent. The head of the observer mission, former President of Malawi, Joyce Banda told a press conference that the mission managed to observe the elections in 175 polling stations in 26 of the 57 constituencies that were contested.
Banda said the political environment was generally peaceful and calm before and during the polls. “Political parties campaigned freely and reached out to voters,” she said, further commending the conduct of polling officials. The mission observed that the polling officials were in sufficient numbers and displayed good knowledge of the voting and counting procedures. Banda was however, non committal on the whether the elections were free and fair, rather sticking to the ‘peaceful and transparent’ stance.
In its observation, the mission called for funding of political parties. “The AUEOM further notes that the Botswana legal framework does not make provision for public funding of political parties and campaign finance as contained in the AU declaration on Principles Governing Democratic elections in Africa, funding comes primarily from private and corporate funding,” Banda said.
She noted that funding would improve the fairness in the electoral process and level the political playing field. She however, said in her understanding, while it is in the documents of the African Union, most countries do not and cannot provide funding to political parties. Banda said while that is the situation, Botswana should consider providing funding for the 2019 general elections.
Though it is yet to be adopted as a law, Parliament has passed a motion by Member of Parliament for Okavango, Bagalatia Arone on political party funding. When presenting the motion in Parliament in November of 2013, Arone stated that political parties needed funds for their day to day activities, including running a credible campaign during an election year.
In the mission’s recommendations, Banda raised issue with the political inclusion of women in political leadership. She called on Botswana to sign and ratify the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance on the Rights of Women in Africa and the SADC declaration on Gender and Development. She said the introduction of legal requirement such as quotas for political parties for affirmative would ensure women’s representation in political decision-making.
The mission further called for the amendment of the Electoral Act, specifically with the counting of ballots. “The mission encourages the IEC to consider reviewing the procedure involving the counting of the votes. The mission recommends the counting and posting of results at the polling stations in order to avoid logistical and operational challenges in the transfer of election material and counting of votes,” said Banda.