16 April 2019

Botswana: State Funding of 2019 General Elections Campaigns

Parliament has completed the 2019/2020 budget including the Committee of Supply debate. I have noticed that there was nothing on either state funding of parties nor campaign funding. The Minister of Finance and Economic Development tabled Supplementary Estimates which covered inter alia Ministries responsibile for Education and the Environment. Again there was nothing in the supplementaries for 2019 campaign funding. You'd know that the Standing Orders limited me to make an addition into the budget proposed, ie the amendment I would have sought could have increase the budget.

I wish to ask Parliament to resolve to ask government to provide 2019 campaign funding for political parties represented in Parliament and or in accordance with 2014 electoral performance. I am not at this point asking for Parliament to resolve on the General Party Funding that is normally debated or is under consideration at the All-Party Conference. This is strictly about 2019 General Elections. Parliament can sanction a Supplementary Budget for this purpose.

IEC made some changes like supplementary voter registration etc for the next financial year. This change provided an opportunity for Parliament to increase the budget to enable campaign funding for 2019. However, this opportunity was missed.

I am aware a motion on public funding of political parties was adopted by the 10th Parliament but has not been implemented. This one is different in that it calls for Campaign Funding for 2019 General Elections...not the implementation of the motion on Public Funding of Parties. The latter is comprehensive (includes funding for party administration and activities plus campaign funding) and may require an Act of Parliament, as it is the case in countries with public funding. What I'm asking for through this motion is executive decision to provide funding for 2019 elections whilst a comprehensive funding is still being considered.

Even assuming the motion is similar to the one adopted previously, which in my view is not, I'm of the humble view that The 11th Parliament is not precluded from debating matters resolved by previous Parliaments.

I am of the view that every election year political parties and individual politicians face a mammoth task of funding the country's democracy with the state through the IEC only assuming the role of a referee. It has become expensive for parties and politicians to campaign for office as elections related materials and services have become exorbitant. Modern technology including but not limited to social media has made running for public office very expensive and hard for the youth and women whose unfortunate position in the country's economy is well known. Many politicians who go to the polls as incumbents are compelled to use their gratuities to fund their campaigns and some who lost elections became instant paupers.

Botswana politicians have become vulnerable to manipulation by the Business community, and other sectional interests because of lack of party and campaign funding.

I'm also aware that there has been a change of guard with President MEK Masisi now at the helm. He has called political parties to a meeting and indicated his desire to resuscitate the All Party Conference. The All Party Conference has started some work. He may accede to this request by Parliament if it adopts the motion. He has, for the first time ordered the live coverage of opposition leaders' responses to SONA and the budget speech. Therefore, this attempt is worth trying.

It is for this reason that I think Botswana can start with campaign funding for 2019 as a pilot project for a fully-fledged party by the state.

I therefore request that you allow this motion to proceed at the convenience of the House; it reads: "This House resolves to request government to provide campaign funding to political parties represented in Parliament and or using 2014 electoral performance for 2019 general elections whilst still considering comprehensive and fully fledged public funding of political parties".

*Dithapelo Keorapetse, MP for Selebi-Phikwe West calling for Political Party Funding.

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