Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Botswana: Doubts over electoral body's readiness

A series of mishaps at various polling stations around the country during the advance voting process over the weekend have raised doubts about the readiness of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to host the 2014 general elections. Uproar broke out on Monday after reports emerged that the weekend poll marred with controversy as some public servants were denied a chance to vote. Reports from various constituencies in the country indicate that voters were made to wait for long hours while in some instances voting was postponed because ballot papers were either defective or in short supply.
In some instances, voters waited until midnight to cast their vote as the IEC was forced to extend voting hours to allow for new ballot papers to arrive. In an interview with The Botswana Gazette, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary hopeful in Molepolole North, Mohammed Khan expressed disappointment at the way the IEC handled the advanced voting process and cast aspersions of the Commission’s preparedness to coordinate the October 24 general election.
Khan said the reason given by the IEC that they underestimated the voter turnout was not good enough as it was always better to bring more ballot papers than less. He added that he will write a letter of protest to the Returning Officer and vowed to approach the courts if the IEC takes the matter lightly.
Botswana Congress Party (BCP) spokesperson and Bobirwa parliamentary candidate Taolo Lucas also confirmed that they experienced shortage of ballots in Bobonong and surrounding areas and urged the IEC to put their house in order before Election Day.
“How can they fail to do the most basic thing? It’s sad that the IEC is taking this matter lightly when we were severely disadvantaged,” he said.
Both Lucas and Khan urged all those who could not vote over the weekend to cast their ballot in October 24.
The weekend electoral mishaps have once against brought allegations of vote rigging to the fore with others calling for the elections to be postponed because the IEC is not ready. Asked to comment on the issue, Political Analyst Leonard Sesa said it was very disappointing for the IEC to fail to administer polls that involved only a few people while a bigger challenge lies ahead.
“It was not a good start for them and people will question the credibility of the election outcome. The Commission needs to work hard to make sure that everything goes well on the 24th,” he said.
Meanwhile, IEC principal public relations officer Osupile Maroba explained that the ballot papers were inadequate because of the unexpectedly large voter turnout.
“We miscalculated because we were not furnished with the required information. Polling officers who turned up to vote in some constituencies exceeded our estimations by far and we responded by delivering additional ballot papers to the affected polling districts”, he said
In response to allegations that some opposition candidates’s names did not appear on the ballot papers in Rasesa, Maroba said two of the contesting candidates were erroneously omitted from the ballot paper which led to elections being postponed to allow for corrections. However, Maroba remained resolute that all the election material required to conduct the 24th October elections is available and distribution will be complete before polling day. He refused to respond to calls for the elections to be postponed saying the IEC cannot make any suppositions on the electoral law.

The Botswana Gazzette

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