As the year comes to an end, the primary elections for all major political parties are still to be completed as we have areas who are still to choose their candidates and those that are likely to have re-runs for a variety of reasons. That the majority of the candidates have been elected, albeit pending issues to be resolved by the main parties, means that this is a period of incubation for the parties. All the parties’ election management machinery has now to deal with the after effects of the primaries and one such is potential disgruntlement by members who may feel the processes have not been fair to them or they were deliberately thrown off the trail. It is this other part that warrants particular attention by all political parties.
Let’s first just explore the issues that are likely to crop up in the aftermath of primary elections, including those that we already hear have surfaced so far. Amongst noticeable issues so far are possible re-runs in certain areas where irregularities may have taken place and it would be interesting to see how each party handles these developments. This is interesting because on the Botswana Democratic Party side, there seem to be a lot of issues that loosing candidates are raising as reasons warranting re-runs, amongst them the management of membership cards, manipulation of voters’ rolls, outright tempering with election results and even possible interference by party leadership in favour of certain candidates. The Botswana National Front also had challenges with their primary elections that included withholding of results in some areas, postponement of elections in others and continued threats by either members or suspended individuals who seek to derail the party preparations. The Botswana Congress Party has its own issues as well, amongst them challenges to election results in some areas and threats to vote for other opposition parties by its members in the Kgatleng area. All these are the reason I say its incubation period because come the conclusion of the primary elections and the New Year, individuals will have made their minds of their next move(s).
In the context of the above issues, we are likely to see two main developments in the New Year as we approach the national elections. First, we will see a lot of disgruntled individuals in all the contending parties who will have several options. The first option is normally to disengage and allow the party to continue with minimal or even non participation at all. These are party members who are die-hards and even when feeling unfairly treated still remain members who simply withdraw their active membership. Secondly, are those who will be so angry that they will rather go it alone so that they either win or spoil their party’s chances by splitting votes? These are the vengeful who believe in the “an eye for an eye” saying and will do all they can to destabilise their former party but not necessarily for the benefit of the opposition, although that may be the case by default. These are the Mekoko (independents) and we could as well see a number of them in the coming elections. The last group are those who will be so angry that they see the best option been to decamp and join another political party, these lot are also potentially destructive as they join hands with the party’s “enemies” and depending on their influence and resourcefulness, they can harm their former party’s chances for winning elections.
The challenge for all political parties is as I have stated it before, the capacity; wisdom and integrity of the party machinery to either amicably resolve all the simmering tensions and grievances to the satisfaction of all disgruntled members, which in itself is a tall order, or to at least minimise the potential damage these instabilities can cause to the party. The extent to which party members are going to be either satisfied or not, with the handling of their protests, appeals and general complaints about the conduct, management and results of the primary elections will also define the extent to which each political party will have to commit resources to quell the fires. This will be key in any party’s preparations for the national elections especially to stabilise and create a sense of common purpose with members focused on maximising their chances of winning seats in the national assembly and the local government. This is indeed a challenge to all parties given what has transpired so far and what is likely to unfold as individuals in these parties make definitive moves of what will be their future political careers, especially those feeling unfairly treated by their parties.
I don’t wish to pretend to possess any prophetic traits in me but if this year’s events around the primary elections are anything to go by, we are likely to see interesting developments once the incubation period elapses. The question for all political parties is whether the eggs will give life birds or stale ones and experts in birds’ breeding predict a lot of stale lost life in most of the eggs and that will mean political parties not only have to deal with counting the costs of having tried to get as many life birds as possible, but they also have to contend with possible instability that could put their campaign trails on real heavy loads. They may not all be capable to harness the necessary resources to effectively pull this heavy load past election date and that can only mean possible losses, including in constituencies and wards that would have been winnable if things had gone smoothly. As we bid 2013 farewell we await the conclusion of the primaries in 2014 and the events that will unfold as the aftermath of such. Which political parties are capable of putting in place measures that will see minimal distractions and less instability as the contest for 2014 approaches? We shall see…..may you all have a very enjoyable festive season and imbibe responsibly.