The SADC Council of Non Governmental Organizations (SADC-CNGO) in partnership with the Botswana Council of Non Governmental Organizations (BOCONGO) observed the Botswana General Elections held on the 16th of October 2009 in which several political parties as well as independent candidates participated.
The organization deployed observers to numerous constituencies of Botswana. The Observer Mission held several briefing meetings with representatives of NGOs, churches, media, other observer missions and also participated in the pre-election stakeholders briefing meeting co-convened with the Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC in Gaborone on the 14th of October 2009. The mission observed the last two days of the pre-election period, the voting process and counting of the votes.
Pre – election environment
The pre-election environment was peaceful and characterised by political tolerance in which political parties campaigned freely.
Funding of political parties
From the meetings held with various stakeholders we noted the ongoing debate on the need for political party funding to create equal opportunities for effective participation in elections by all political parties.
In our analysis of the voting process the following concerns were noted:-
Delays in voting due to lengthy explanations on how to vote as well as the voting procedures.
Rejections for instance due to double registration.
Inconsistent assistance of people with disabilities and other vulnerable groups.
Lack of clarity as to what additional documentation was required by voters whose identify had been altered mainly due to marriage.
Management of the Election
We found the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) officials at both coordination and polling centres generally helpful, friendly and cooperative with all stakeholders including election observers. The police also performed their roles satisfactorily and were available throughout the process thereby contributing to the smooth and peaceful election environment However the following concerns were noted:-
It was unclear on whether Returning officers had any discretionary powers to address some of the emerging challenges during the election process for example creating additional queues and polling booths to speed up the process.
Both the voting and counting processes were very slow in nearly all polling stations mainly due to the voting and verification procedures.
The arrangement that time would be created for election and security officials to vote on the polling day created challenges for some who were registered in polling stations other than they were deployed in.
The current counting procedure at central locations is long and cumbersome if compared with counting at the polling stations.
Voter registration and Nomination process
The Observer Mission was pleased to note that the registration process was smooth and continuous. We applaud Botswana for making available in electronic and print form – the Voters Roll to political parties and even to polling agents during the voting process. In addition, except for rejections mainly due to double registration and change of particulars, in all the cases the mission visited there were hardly cases were voters were turned away due to the state of the voters roll.
However, the following concerns were noted:
Time for voter registration and nomination of candidates did not give enough time for the IEC to prepare all requisite voting materials and allow election officials to vote before the Election Day.
There were challenges related to the voters roll such as difficulty of finding names and the mismatch between the places people came to vote and where they had registered.
The Observer Mission noted the limited number of female candidates for both Parliamentary and Local Government elections in most constituencies.
The Observer Mission noted the efforts by state media to cover all political parties during the campaign period. However, concerns were raised by other stakeholders that the state media should ensure equal coverage of all political parties before and during the election time.
We noted that some political parties did not deploy agents to some polling stations. In addition, a significant number of the agents did not demonstrate knowledge of their roles and the reason why they were there. In some instances some agents came late.
We commend Batswana for the peace and tranquillity that characterised the election; the Independent Electoral Commission for the smooth management of the election; political parties and the independent candidates and all such other role players who made the just ended general election a success.
It is the view of the Observer mission that the election environment was conducive for a free and fair election and that the election results generally represent the will of Batswana and largely complied with the SADC Guidelines and Principles Governing Democratic Elections.
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