Belated compliments of the new year to all and wishing you a fruitful and productive year ahead.┬á I look forward to this year with great anticipation on the political front. One of the key issues that should dominate public debate and attention in 2013 is the political events in preparation for 2014 General Elections.
I want to believe that all political parties in the country will have much of their efforts, focus and commitment on how they, firstly, consolidate their support base, secondly engage in public campaigns of varied ways to lure more members and position themselves for winning wards and constituencies come 2014. Lastly political parties will hopefully engage in meaningful selection of those who will represent them at both local government and national assembly levels.
This last part is one that has hallmarks of either consolidating party support further or actually straining party cohesiveness as contenders firstly bicker to beat party colleagues and win the ticket to represent the party and secondly, and more potentially dangerous for parties, will be the management of post primary elections events.
History has shown that political parties often face turbulent times after primary elections as some party members find it hard to accept defeat by their fellow colleagues for a variety of reasons.
Amongst those reasons are personality clashes, dissatisfaction with party election procedures, vetting power of party leaders/organs, and just the realisation of losing an opportunity to gain some employment through political office. These are just some of the issues that will preoccupy different political parties in this country and the extent to which each affects any given party will largely depend on each party’s capacity and competence to handle and resolve these matters in a way that protects party cohesiveness and minimises straining relations with the concerned members which often leads to defections by party activists.
The political party that will better manage and emerge from the party primary elections with less discontent and disillusionment resulting from the inner party elections, will approach 2014 with more confidence at both levels of the elections competition. I do not wish to go into the details of possible scenarios based on current political happenings in the country but I would like to mention just two points of interest.
Firstly, this is the year that will see the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) tests its might for the first time as a united front.┬á Through a rather unfortunate event, the UDC has been given a platform to measure its might at parliamentary level elections by the death of Letlhakeng West Member of Parliament Rre Maxwel Motowane , following its victory at Maboane council ward bye election in the same constituency recently.
This is not to suggest that the results of the yet to come parliamentary bye election alone will give enough guide is to what’s to come in 2014, but it will provide UDC with an opportunity to convince the electorate of its viability as a project. Secondly, 2013 is a year that the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) would want to prove to the electorate that it is a better opposition alternative compared to the UDC. It is clearly a fight for the tag of leading opposition party between these two and BCP would like to convince electorates that there is opposition party life outside UDC, whilst their rivals would equally want to prove that opposition party life rests within the united front. The history of this competition for supremacy dates back to the collapse of the Umbrella 1 coalition negotiations. One of the things to look forward to in 2013 is the tussle for opposition turf leadership between the UDC and BCP, let alone their individual wars with the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP).
As the above scenario unfolds in the year, the ruling BDP will also be up to retain its dominance of Botswana politics in so far as winning elections is concerned and it is certainly going to exploit a divided opposition for its own benefit. As the ruling party, it would also be interesting to see if the BDP would use its incumbency to come up with what others would call “election campaign projects” to lure those electorates especially in marginal and opposition held constituencies.
Competition for electoral votes can sometimes compromise approved plans and see diversion of programmes and projects to areas that are deemed of electoral interest. It remains to be seen if this could be part of the BDP strategies or whether adherence to disciplined planning and expenditure would not accommodate any ideas of what others may call “buying of votes” , assuming this could be entertained as a possible strategy.
I look forward to some tough competition amongst the political parties and this year should provide the electorates with more than enough to make up their minds as to where to lay their trust come 2014. I am mentioning the above with full knowledge of the diversity of the types of voters political parties will be trying to woe. Each of the parties has its own core members, who are the converted and therefore need less of persuasion, and then there are the members who could easily vacillate and cross over or provide the protest vote and these need constant checking by the parties just to ensure that they are still on board.
There is also the “unattached voter” who while a consistent voter, is not affiliated to any political party and political parties will fight to attract this voter, who usually votes on the basis of the type of candidate presented, issues advanced and what’s in it for me amongst other issues. Political parties will do well to understand this make up of voters and package their campaign strategies accordingly. This is critical for optimal use of the campaign resources that are forever limited, especially within the opposition side.
I hope it will be a year of constructive engagement between political parties and the electorates so that 2014 present itself as a year with high voter turn over and the best and capable leaders emerge as victors come election day.┬á The nation looks forward to the year’s political activities with anticipation, the recruitment machineries of all the political parties must be thoroughly oiled by this time, if not, “le saletse ruri ko morago, ba ile”.┬á┬á┬á┬á┬á
*Molaodi teaches Public administration at the University of Botswana