International risk assessment institutions are dampening their favorable forecasts for the Opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to unseat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in 2019.
The Economist Intelligence Unit which on the other hand had reserved its predictions on the possible outcome of the 2019 General Elections in Botswana has now revised its position and now predicts the BDP is likely to retain power.
In its May 2017 political risk assessment report, The Economist Intelligence Unit was non committal about the possible outcome of the 2019 General Election. updated last week January 26th week its political outlook for Botswana stating, “the governing Botswana Democratic Party is set to remain in power, though a new opposition alliance will put its political supremacy under pressure and force a more populist tone to governance.””
This was a slight change from its May 2017 political risk forecast report that, “”the ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s popularity is waning and it is likely to be unsettled by the formation of a new opposition coalition. As a general election in 2019 nears, deeper competition in the political arena points to a more populist slant to governance in a bid to shore up voter support.”
Another risk assessment company, the BMI which in its May 2017 report predicted a change of government in Botswana in 2019 has also revised its prediction and now remains non committal on the possible outcome of the general elections. In its initial report of March 2015 immediately after the 2014 General elections, the BMI predicted a strong challenge from the opposition in the 2019 general elections. “. Ongoing social issues and perceptions of undemocratic leadership will , however , boost opposition support during the present political mandate (2014-2019), enabling these parties, as part of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) coalition, to mount a credible threat to BDP’s power in the next parliamentary election in 2019.” After the Botswana Congress Party joined the UDC, the BMI revised its risk assessment for Botswana in July 2017 and came up strongly in its prediction that the UDC may unseat the BDP. The BMI penned a report under the headline: “Political Risk Analysis – Opposition to win power in 2019”
The BMI stated that “t he opposition looks poised to finally unseat the ruling Botswana Democratic Party in the 2019 general election and we see a risk that fiscal policy will be loosened aggressively in the run up to the vote as the BDP attempts to shore up support. The ruling Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP) 54-year faces rising risks that it will be unable to retain its power in the 2019 general election, suggesting Botswana is set for its first transfer of power since the country received independence in 1965. The ruling party has done successively worse in each election since independence in 1965, now holding only a small majority in parliament. With unemployment unlikely to fall rapidly in the next two years, there is an elevated likelihood that 2019 will represent the moment when the transfer of power finally takes place. That said, an opposition victory is by no means certain. It remains unclear how the electorate will view the forthcoming departure from office of President Ian Khama. While the party risks devolving into infighting and losing direction following his departure, we cannot rule out that the BDP could be reinvigorated by new leadership. The opposition’s prospects also rest on whether the four main opposition parties can present a united front.””
The four main parties under the UDC have however failed to maintain a united from with a section of the Botswana Movement for Democracy breaking away to for the Alliance for Progressives (AP). The BMI has thus reviewed its favorable forecast for a UDC take over and is now non committal.
In their latest Botswana risk report released December 2017 after the AP broke away from the UDC, the BMI stated that, “: Botswana will remain one of the most politically stable countries in Southern Africa over our long-term forecast period to 2026. Although risks exist in the form of climate change and high levels of inequality, these are unlikely to pose a substantial threat to the country’s political stability.
“Botswana is likely to continue enjoying a reputation for being Southern Africa’s most stable state. Minimal levels of social unrest, strong state institutions, and a history of policy continuity all contribute to an attractive operating environment for businesses that we believe will continue to attract investment in the years to come. While we do highlight certain risks to this outlook, such as the potential instability that could follow from country’s exposure to climate change and its high levels of inequality, we do not believe these will lead to any significant deterioration in Botswana’s political environment over the next decade.””
A third political risk assessment outfit, Global Risk Insights (GRI) joined the bandwagon predicting a possible loss for the BDP in 2019. GRI which endeavors to bring the political risk industry into the 21st century by creating new, cutting-edge approaches to political risk analysis classified Botswana post 2019 political risk as “uncertain.”
In their risk analysis under the title: Under the Radar: Will 2019 make or break Botswana? Written by Senior Analyst Jeremy Luedi, GRI which pioneered a unique political forecasting methodology called Future Generator which combines data analytics with human intelligence stated that, “Botswana’s opposition will run a single candidate in 2019 in order to unseat the long-ruling BDP. The country’s political and economic future is at stake.”
“This new coalition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) seeks to shake up Botswana’s politics, as economic troubles and a controversial outgoing president set the stage for uncertainty in one of Africa’s most stable countries”, states GRI.
“Like many African independence-era parties, the BDP has held a monopoly on political power, ruling Botswana since 1966. Despite this, the country has managed to peacefully develop and is often touted as a poster-child for effective African governance. That being said, there is increasing talk among observers that we are witnessing the end of Botswana’s exceptionalism, as the country struggles to find a coherent foreign policy, and as inequality, unemployment, and economic hurdles mount.
These factors saw the BDP capture less than 50% of the vote for the first time during the 2014 elections. The four main opposition parties, which have formed the UDC, in turn garnered 53.55% of the vote.”
In the same report under the sub heading: New president, new direction? GRI points out that, “the UDC is planning ahead for the 2019 elections, hoping to unseat the BDP, especially since President Ian Khama is due to step down that same year, as his final permitted five year term comes to an end. The BDP will have to find a candidate to replace a president who leaves behind a mixed legacy.”
Now that Botswana’s opposition is unlikely to contest the 2019 elections under a single leader, the GRI is expected to review its earlier assessment to reflect the change following the breakaway by AP. GRI is expected to present its latest assessment of Botswana’s political risk in the first quarter of 2018.