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Research now big business and influencer

ATTENTIVE: Workshop participants

Research has become big business for private companies and a big influencer in election outcomes in developed countries; this was revealed by a participant from University of Botswana at a two day stakeholders’ workshop that ended last Wednesday.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) had organized a stakeholders Evaluation Workshop for the 2019 general elections, with an objective to get feedback and take recommendations to cabinet for consideration.

Participants from UB Centre for Democracy said that research companies have used data and their findings to influence outcomes in Brexit Referendum of 2016 as well as the election of US President Donald Trump the same year.

They also sell their findings to rival political parties who use it to strategize against each other.

The academics said research is crucial in elections and therefore there is need for public education for them to make informed decisions.

“The Independent Electoral Commission should develop a curriculum for Civic Education addressing all stakeholder groups and general electorate,” says one recommendation from the participants.

Furthermore, the funding of political parties once again emerged as one of the recommendation from workshop participants as well as Election Observer Missions for the 2019 general elections and that the government should establish an oversight body for registration and regulation of political parties together with a law and regulations that provide for that.

Gender imbalance that has characterized the country’s political participation has also caught the attention of the observers and once again, the government has been asked to address the problem through constitutional amendments in conformity with SADC Protocol on Gender and Development (2016) and SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections (2015).

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It became apparent at the two day stakeholders workshop that in some instances voters seem to be tired of politicians or expert advice and would rather vote for a comedian as their preferred leader like it happened in some developed countries.

A heated debate ensued when a suggestion was made that there should be a requirement for minimum qualifications for persons standing for public office.

It was resolved that a Diploma in any field should be a minimum qualification for those standing for the National Assembly, whilst BGCSE should be standard for those standing for council seat.

One surprising issue was that to this date, some polling staff have not received their payments because of government’s financial processes whilst others were paid just a week after the 2019 general elections.

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