Botswana: 2000 National Evaluation Workshop

Updated October 2001

For the first time, Batswana residing outside the country were given the opportunity to exercise their right to vote. Out of a total of and estimated 17 400 Batswana residing outside the country, 1 345 registered and only 333 voted. A total of 17 483 ballots were spoiled or rejected. This was a very disappointing outcome.

A number of organisations and agencies were called upon to critically assess, observe and evaluate the preparation and conduct of the October 1999 general election. These included the external observer missions, the evaluation team of electoral experts, the Democracy Research Project of the University of Botswana.

The outcome of the election was not impressive. There was an estimated voting age population of 867 000. Out of this number 459 662 or 53% registered to vote. The actual votes cast were 354 466. Of the 268 500 eligible youth (18 - 21 years), only 21 288 registered to vote. A sizeable proportion of the registered youth did not take up their responsibility to vote. At the end of the 1999 general elections, it was necessary to take stock of what happened during the preparations and process of voting. This was done to identify shortfalls in the management of the process and to work out solutions and new approaches to dealing with problem areas and issues at stake about elections. It is hoped that from the lessons learnt, we will improve our performance in the subsequent elections.

Two regional workshops were held in November and December 1999 attended by Returning Officers in the Southern and Northern regions respectively. The workshops provided a forum for stakeholders to share ideas and get feedback on what happened and why.

On June 26-27, 2000, a national workshop was held to further evaluate the conduct of the elections. Participants included: political parties; the media; academics; representatives of the electoral commissions from some of SADC member states (Lesotho; Namibia; South Africa and Swaziland); Non-Governmental Organisations; Community-Based Organisations; government departments; the private sector; and civil society. The workshop was an opportunity for participants to share experiences and knowledge on electoral processes and practices.

The official opening of the National Evaluation Workshop was done by the British High Commissioner to Botswana, Mr John Wilde.

Mr Wilde noted that his country and government were committed "to supporting and sustaining democracy through the electoral process." He expressed hope that participants would emerge from the workshop more informed and with greater resolve to contribute to the promotion of democracy in the entire southern region.

The High Commissioner said that there was need for a clear and unequivocal legal frame work that defines the constitution, staffing, funding, and operation of the Commission. Regarding the Commission itself, Mr Wilde said that the Commission has to develop "... clear and well publicized guidelines for itself, for political parties, for the media, for incumbent government, and for the voting public."