Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Botswana: African Union Observers Okay Vote Preparations

Botswana: AU Observers Okay Vote Preparations

Wene Owino
14 October 2009

Gaborone — The African Union (AU) Observer Mission in Botswana has given preparations for the country's elections on Friday a clean bill of health.

At the a press conference in Gaborone on Tuesday, the head of the mission Dr Brigalia Bam of South Africa said that so far, they are satisfied with what the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has done to prepare for the polls, the tenth since the country gained independence from Britain in 1966.

"The AU observer mission is convinced that there exist conducive and favourable conditions for the elections generally, and that sufficient preparatory work has been done to enable the people of Botswana to go to the polls and make their political choices based on free will," she said.

Ms Bam who chairs the South African electoral commission said the AU mission is satisfied with the explanation given by IEC to shed light on why students sitting exams and over 25,000 civil servants will not vote on Friday. She added that operational hiccups should not be used to determine whether elections are free and fair.

She suggested that Botswana should adopt the counting of votes at polling centres because ferrying ballot boxes to the constituency headquarters for counting is outdated.

She said the Botswana IEC needs to be fully in control of the election process by for example setting the polling date. Currently, the Botswana president sets the election date, much to the chagrin of opposition parties who have demanded that the date be fixed by law.

But Ms Bam said that fixing the election date might not be wise. She said it might be difficult to postpone elections due to factors like poor preparations if the date has been fixed.

She stated that it is not fair for governments to be in charge of elections because the ruling party is always a player in the process. Besides the AU, a SADC team has also arrived in Botswana to monitor the elections.

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