Botswana president challenges vice president vote

AP News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2014 12:55 PM
Botswana president challenges vice president vote

GABORONE, Botswana (AP) — Botswana's president wants his vice president elected by a show of hands, a process opposition parties said on Tuesday would undermine the powers of parliament.

President Ian Khama's lawyers approached the attorney general last week to petition the court to change the voting process from a secret ballot to a show of hands. In Botswana, publicly elected members of parliament select the vice president, speaker and deputy speaker.

Khama and the ruling Botswana Democratic Party were re-elected in last month's general election. October's election also resulted in the highest number of seats won by the opposition since the country gained independence in 1966.

The Umbrella for Democratic Change, which became the official opposition, said Khama's request was a form of intimidation. Despite the election win, Khama has lost support within his own party, the opposition said.

"Instead of trying to convince his party, he would rather coerce them to vote along the lines he wants," said Phenyo Butale, a member of the Umbrella for Democratic Change.

Presidential spokesman Jeff Ramsay said the attorney general, who is appointed by the president, was only clarifying the process of selection.

"The issue at hand is interpretation of the constitution, which is the supreme law of the land," said Ramsay.

Botswana's court will decide this week whether a show of hands is constitutional. In the meantime, parliament cannot carry out most of its duties. The country of about two million people has long been regarded as one of Africa's most stable democracies.