Candidates for key posts to be grilled first under UDC

In a future Umbrella for Democratic Change government, candidates for the key government positions would first have to be subjected to brutal grilling that is standard practice in the United States.

Acting on the conviction that the appointment for such positions is not “subject to rigorous checks and balances”, the party says in its election manifesto that it would introduce confirmation hearings “by the Legislature or other independent Government organs.” Those subjected to these rigorous checks and balances would be nominees for the positions of Chief Justice and High Court judge, Governor of the Bank of Botswana, Commander of the Botswana Defence Force and heads of military departments, Commissioner of the Police, Director of DIS, Head of National Security Council, ambassadors and permanent secretaries.  The manifesto says that those nominated for these posts would be “subject to confirmation by a parliamentary process and others by the Public Service Commission.”

Under the current system, it is the president who appoints individuals to those posts. The same sort of thing happens in the United Kingdom which Botswana, a former colony, has modelled its system of governance on. Confirmation hearings are a uniquely American phenomenon and involve the nomination of individuals for federal office by the president. As part of the separation of powers in the constitution, such nominees must be confirmed by the senate.
However, if the experience of the US is any useful guide, confirmation hearings may not be a solution at all because in the words of one American, they are a “vapid and hollow charade.”

Opening up the process to more politicians turns confirmation hearings into a political ball game and the fate of a nominee is largely dependent on their ideological leaning. In the case of judicial nomination, this is prompted by fear that judges are inclined to insert their political preferences into their judicial decisions. In the US, the extent of the politics is that senators tend to delay and obstruct judicial candidates causing an artificial judicial vacancy crisis, threatening the separation of powers and eroding the willingness of individuals to serve in the bench.

In the most extreme cases, highly intelligent, well-credentialed judicial nominees are voted down by those on the opposing side because of fear that they may sway other judges with their superior intellect and thus defeat their ideological agenda. It has also been suggested by some American scholars that senators use the confirmation hearings to turn the spotlight on them and not the task at hand. One famous example is of then Senator Barack Obama who voted against the nomination of current US Supreme Court Chief Justice, John Roberts, because he wanted to use the opportunity of the hearings to launch his own (successful) bid for the White House.

Last modified on Friday, 20 June 2014 10:57

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