An independent report has revealed that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) faces a growing risk of losing power in the upcoming general elections slated for October. The country risk report, compiled by Business Monitor International, warns of looming political tensions in Botswana, ahead of the 2014 general elections. It stated that political tensions will head higher in Botswana over the coming few months, especially because the newly launched Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is flexing its muscles.
Business Monitor International noted that while a comfortable victory for President Ian Khama and his ruling BDP in 2014 remains by far the most likely outcome, it is expected that the coming months and years will be among the most challenging the BDP has faced. It further said the launch of the UDC in November last year was a long waited and potentially significant step towards providing voters with a credible alternative to the BDP’s longstanding dominance.
“While we do not foresee anything other than a comfortable victory for the ruling BDP in this year’s polls, there are clear signs that the country’s one-sided political landscape is beginning to shift,” said the report.
It said the official launch of the UDC in November last year marked the latest attempt by Botswana’s weak and factionalized opposition to break the ruling BDP’s long-standing dominance of the country’s political landscape. “With the launch of a new political party and a general election around the corner in 2014 the stakes are higher than usual. While still in its infancy and facing both internal and external threats to its progress and existence, we believe the UDC, if it holds, has the potential to poll well in 2014,” stated the report.
It further said the inception of UDC is arguably the biggest shift in Botswana’s political landscape since the split within the BDP in 2010 that gave rise to the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD). Despite Botswana’s cherished status as a multi-party democracy and regional beacon of good governance, the country has been a de facto one-party state since independence in 1966.
“The BDP’s victory looks slightly less convincing when viewed in popular vote terms. Despite winning 45 out of 57 parliamentary seats, this equated to only 53.4 percent of the vote,” said the report.
However, the report said a number of factors ÔÇô in particular the absence of the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) from the opposition alliance ÔÇô should make a 10th successive general election victory for the ruling party in 2014 all but assured. Despite this setback, the election campaign is likely to be among the most keenly contested in recent times. Following numerous setbacks and delays, there are signs that the UDC, comprised of Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana People’s Party (BPP) is now moving in the right direction. “The appointment of a single leader in Duma Boko of the BNF, a human rights lawyer, is a positive development. While he will be supported by Gomolemo Motswaledi of BMD and Motlatsi Molapisi of BPP, Boko as a single figurehead provides a better potential rallying point for the party and the electorate alike,” read the report.
At the heart of its election campaign, the UDC will likely capitalize on simmering discontent among civil servants and trade union activists in particular, heightened by unemployment and the government’s public sector wage cuts. The issue of corruption is also likely to feature prominently as the opposition seeks to capitalize on waning popular support for a government widely perceived as increasingly authoritarian. “For this reason alone we believe the alliance ÔÇô if it holds ÔÇô could poll relatively well in 2014 as voters, tired of BDP-dominance, seek an alternative. The extent of the UDC’s success could hinge on its ability to attract young and poor voters, which in turn will depend on how well the party is able to sell itself to a population relatively disenchanted with party politics, “read the BMI report.
While it did not rule out the option of BCP joining the alliance in some shape or form further down the line, the report said there is currently little indication that this will happen prior to, or in time for, the election. The report said Botswana faces challenges in its foreign policy decisions as it attempts to sustain the high regard in which it is held by the West, which may put it at odds with regional peers, as has been the case with Zimbabwe.