(formerly IRIN News) Journalism from the heart of crises

State of emergency defended

The government of Botswana has defended its decision to declare a state of emergency, and met with opposition leaders this weekend to assure them that next month's election will go ahead as planned, 'Business Day' reported on Monday.

President Festus Mogae declared a state of emergency last week, the first time since independence, in order to reconvene parliament to amend legislation to allow an estimated 60,000 additional people to be added to the voters roll. The announcement of the 16 October date ten days ago by the president rendered supplementary voter registration invalid.
Supplementary registration was decided upon at the end of July when less than half of the country's eligible voters had registered.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Botswana Electoral Commission told IRIN on Monday that an estimated 450,000 people had registered for the elections out of about 800,000 eligible voters. "The situation is very normal and the elections will go ahead as planned on the date that the president announced," he said.

Mogae's government has, however, been strongly criticised by opposition parties. Lepetu Setshwaelo, presidential candidate for the Botswana Alliance Movement said: "This government is totally incompetent and this is the biggest scandal since our independence." The leader of the Botswana Congress Party added: "We will not support a situation where the president can resort to emergency powers in an attempt to save the situation. There is nothing which necessitates a state of emergency to
be declared."

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