Analysts have opined that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is on panic mode, after reports emerged that the party convened a special meeting on Friday to reassess its prospects for the 2014 general elections, in the face of strong evidence that the opposition was growing stronger by the day and now posed a growing threat to the party.
The special meeting was addressed by President Ian Khama to evaluate the opposition strengths and address challenges faced by candidates on the campaign trail in their various constituencies. A source from within the ruling party said the meeting was convened to revise the BDP campaign strategy and consider the views of the people as expressed during rallies and door to door campaigns.
“We focused more on the opposition, trying to assess their strengths and formulate ways to tackle them. We also discussed challenges that we come across during our campaigns,” said the source.
Leonard Sesa, a political analyst at the University of Botswana, said the latest reports indicate that the BDP leadership has hit the panic button and is becoming agitated by the opposition threat.
“The combined opposition is a serious threat to the ruling BDP. This combination is a new thing in our politics. We have seen opposition cooperation bringing results for opposition parties in other countries like Zambia,” said Sesa.
He said the BDP had made the right decision to convene a meeting that would assess the opposition threat. He added that the ruling party has to work extra hard ahead of the 2014 general elections and devise good strategies that will overcome the increasing threat of the opposition.
“BDP is going to win the elections, but the facts remains that they will lose a lot of key constituencies to the opposition,” he said.
Sesa also cautioned the opposition to reach out to the electorate and capitalize on the people’s hunger for change. He said opposition cooperation is a new phenomenon that is not understood by many electorates, and urged the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to take their time to explain the concept to the people.
“They must set their differences aside and minimize talks about internal strife and party differences. The UDC must explain to Batswana what exactly is going to happen if the Umbrella wins elections. Their message to the electorates must be clear and consistent,” he said. Sesa added that the opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has a responsibility to explain to Batswana why they are not part of the UDC project. He said the BCP is faced with challenges of credibility because the message that is currently being spread to the people is that they refused to be part of the opposition cooperation project.
“The voters need to know exactly why the talks collapsed. When listening to UDC president Duma Boko, electorates gather that only one constituency led to failure of the talks. This then raises the question of whether the opposition is credible enough to lead, if they can fail to compromise for one constituency,” said Sesa. The BDP crisis meeting comes just after a damning independent report that revealed that the party faces a growing risk of losing power in the upcoming general elections. 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.
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.
The report 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).