A visiting Canadian professor has predicted that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s vote share will drop below the 50 percent threshold following the recent split, and that a change of government seems likely.
Dr Amy Poteete told The Telegraph that, “my analysis of the 2009 elections suggests that the factional conflict actually contributed to the BDP’s electoral success. It seems that at least some voters who might have otherwise voted for the opposition or abstained chose to support candidates associated with the Barata-Phathi faction instead. Also, factional competition for seat share apparently helped mobilize the BDP base. Regardless of the number of elected officials who decide to switch from the BDP to the BMD, the BDP is currently not very attractive to the sorts of voters who supported Barata-Phathi candidates in 2009.”
Dr Poteete says “although an eventual change in government seems likely, there is no guarantee that the change will occur in the next round of elections. Under the current electoral system, it is possible for the BDP to win a legislative majority even if its vote share falls below the 50 percent threshold.”
┬áShe said Botswana is caught between democratization and de-democratization forces: “While sharp dichotomies are great for political rallies, they obscure the mixed nature of reality. Currently in Botswana, for example, I see what might be described as both democratizing and de-democratizing processes.
“No country – regardless of the duration of its experience with democracy – is immune to pressures for de-democratization.”
She said the recurring question is whether the forces for democratic deepening are stronger than the processes that erode democracy.
Dr Poteete has been conducting research on the politics of natural resource policies in Botswana since the mid-1990s.
“My past research raised several questions that stimulated interest in comparative experiences with dominant party systems. First, cross-national experiences with the end of single party dominance have been diverse. Are there lessons to be drawn from the experiences elsewhere? Second, my previous work suggests that different patterns of local and national electoral competition have different implications for policy – in terms of the provision of public goods versus benefits for special interests, sensitivity to local conditions and concerns (very important for natural resource policies), and responsiveness to the electorate in general. What are those patterns? How do the local and national political dynamics interact? And what are the qualitative implications for democratic governance?”