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By Dan Molaodi
A year ago I wrote about the “muddy, mucky and mucky “terrain in our political landscape prior to this year’s national elections. At the time I spoke of the instability that prevailed among and within both the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and main opposition, mainly the Umbrella for Democratic Changer (UDC). Just as a reminder, I did say then that events do [point out to splits in both the BDP and the UDC. It has since come to be, as the UDC ultimately expelled the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and the judicial courts have just recently ruled that the expulsion was lawful and procedural, and thus the UDC and BMD are now by law (pending expressed appeal by the BMD), two entities in the opposition field. Similarly the BDP has also witnessed a split that has resulted in the formation of the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).
These two events have slightly clarified the political landscape within which campaigns will be structured, although bringing in elements of confusion as to the nature of political configuration of alliances going into the elections and possible alliances post elections. It is now clear that the BPF has entered the opposition ranks and has unleashed its focus on, mainly the BDP and this has two main components. The first is that by design or default, the BPF would concentrate its efforts on the constituencies in the central district which currently has about eighteen (18) constituencies all won by the BDP in the 2014 elections. It remains to be seen if the BPF would be a factor in any of these constituencies and whether its effect would mean a first for the opposition to win a constituency in the central district. The BPF will be fielding candidates in some of these constituencies for both members of parliament and councillors. The second component is the BPF’s decision to support opposition candidates in those areas where it is not fielding its own members. At the apex of these two scenarios is the debate as to whether or not any of the two or the combined effects of both would have enough effect to lead to the BDP losing some of these constituencies for the first time in our history.
There are also questions as to the possible impact of the BPF in other constituencies where it may have significant numbers of not only members but sympathizers who would vote for it or the opposition. There are voices and perceptions that argue that the later may not be of any significance as BPF, been the brain child of former president, would not garner any meaningful numbers to greatly affect the BDP’s performance, especially in the urban centres and constituencies outside the central district. This is one argument that the results of the elections will put to test, for now it’s still very muddy and mukky as to the actual impact the BPF will have on the election results. One need just mention here that this effect is for some still inconclusive as it is believed that the exodus to the BPF might not be over yet. There are members of the BDP standing for both parliamentary and council positions whose commitment is seemingly suspect and there are rumours that they will either dump the BDP are registration time or stand and win on BDP ticket, only to decamp to mainly the BPF or even any opposition, especially one that might have more numbers after the elections.
The expulsion of the BMD from the UDC simply means that there are more players in the opposition side than what was envisaged through the consolidation of opposition efforts. Whereas the joining of the UDC by the Botswana Congress Party was seen as a move to give combined opposition coalition more chances and possibility to win elections, the BMD and the Alliance for Progressives (AP), have dented that “peoples project” dream. The configuration of opposition is that the UDC of Botswana National Front (BNF), BCP and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) will have to contend with not only the BDP but possible significant numbers that have decamped with both the AP and the BMD. The big question is how the AP and BMD numbers will offset the gains that are associated with the coming in of the BCP into the UDC. It is therefore a huge task for the UDC to consolidate the “peoples’ project” bandwagon of 2014 and capitalise on that to still come out of the elections as the peoples’ choice for future opposition politics that emphasises opposition unity. It is this principle that is expected to give the UDC more leverage and consequently the expectation is that the AP and BMD would likely suffer the fate of the BCP in the 2014 elections.
There are of course plausible arguments that the variables at play now may be different from those in 2014 and therefore there could be other factors besides these mentioned here that could have significant effects on the election results. Amongst the possible variables without going into any detailed discussion here, are, what others see as the effects of the current president as mending the rot that was entrenched by the former; interestingly, there are those who believe in the K-magic of former president as a possible changer; the spate of corruption cases that involves billions and millions of public funds; the culpability of both ruling and opposition members in questionable transactions as well as some murmurs on tribal tensions. These in addition to the main aspects discussed earlier will ultimately be key on who wins the 2019 elections as well as the possible post-election alliances, especially if the results present no clear winner as others have suggested it could happen for the first time in our history.
It is an election that is unlike any other before, where a month away from the elections there are still major issues that erodes the stability of the major contending parties. The parliament has been dissolved and a writ of elections has been issued together with the announcement of the date of the elections and parties still have to worry about potentially destabilizing factors, when it should be now be campaign strategies and rallies to buttress their issues. We are still witnessing launching of candidates whereas in the past these were done much earlier. It is going to be an interesting election, we shall await the date and results.