Thursday, February 9, 2023

Maths, circumstances favour BDP in upcoming bye-elections

As the only other woman vying for the Bosele council seat (Gaborone City Council), Thabanyane Agnes Mmualefe of the Botswana Democratic Party beat all her opponents soundly in the 2019 general election. The runner-up, Aubrey Kgomotso of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, lost by 125 votes. An independent candidate, Sylvester Ipotseng, managed 147 votes – which was nine votes more than the Alliance for Progressives candidate, Benedict Bogosi, got. The worst performer was Mosarwa Ntsima of the Botswana Patriotic Front, the other female candidate, who got only 20 votes.

Hundreds of kilometres away in Grootlagte, Ezekiel Kajuu of the BDP won against Kopanelo Theko of the Botswana Movement for Democracy with a small margin of 60 votes. The UDC’s candidate, Palesa Mothibi, got 110 votes.

Mmualefe and Kajuu are no more, having died weeks apart as the year began. Resultantly, there will be a bye-election that will happen in drastically changed political circumstances. While the UDC of 2019 was stronger than today’s, the BDP could still beat it – as it did in most Gaborone wards. The difference this time is that today’s UDC is much weaker. The Botswana Congress Party has announced that it is leaving and its replacement – the BPF, is still as weak in Gaborone as it was in 2019. Hypothetically, this scenario favours BDP, which remains intact.

Grootlagte is an even more interesting case because while Kajuu scraped by with only 60 votes against BMD’s Kopanelo Theko, the circumstances still favour the BDP. Today, BMD exists in name only and last year, its leader made an attempt to join the Botswana National Front. A general’s plan to defect will always demoralise the troops. The BCP component of the Grootlagte UDC will be peeling away soon, further weakening the opposition collective in the ward.

Then again, it is always impossible to compare general-election voting with bye-election voting because they are two completely different situations. The 2019 general election happened three months before Covid-19 hit. When Covid hit, it brought unprecedented economic devastation that doesn’t favour the BDP electorally. The BDP has also been doing badly in bye-elections, which some interpret as an indication of dissatisfaction with the party.

There is also a novel dynamic: the possibility that the BDP did actually rig the outcome of the 2019 general election as some opposition parties (namely BNF) allege. If that did indeed happen, the polling figures from that election are useless for purposes of measuring the electoral strength of parties that contested in the election.

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