Thursday, August 6, 2020

There is no need to change our current electoral system

Senior opposition figures talk openly about changing the current electoral system of First Past the Post in favour of Proportional Representation.

They talk of how flawed the current system is. 

Those among them claiming to be more sophisticated refer vaguely to a hybrid system.

Ironically, they like to invoke Lesotho as a reference point why Botswana should likewise change its system.

Forget about security issues, Proportional Representation in Lesotho has not brought about political stability.

To the contrary, Lesotho has over the last few years degenerated into political instability, which feeds into security issues.

As we speak, Lesotho is in flames.

In South Africa, political parties are almost united in their calls for change away from Proportional Representation.

They all cite Botswana’s electoral system as a beacon of fairness to the voter.

To our opposition, the fact that Botswana Democratic Party got less than 50 percent share of the popular vote and went on to get around 70 percent of seats in parliament is prima facie evidence of why the current system is broken, and should be abolished and replaced with Proportional Representation.

That at least is what they say publicly.

What they do not say, is that a change of Government is disproportionately harder to achieve under the current system, especially when you have a large constituencies.

Top of their wishlist is attaining power. And they are coming up with all sorts of short-term reasons to advance that cause, not caring much if along the way they discredit themselves. 

It is an open secret that compared to their ruling party counterparts, a good number of opposition leaders are workshy. Their instincts are with

getting state power. And not what they will with it after they get it.

If love for power has been one of the most defining attributes of our opposition, the general conduct of their key functionaries and strategists

have has generally hinted at people who do not know where to start if they really want that power.

They spend more and more time in Gaborone, addressing press conferences and writing press releases and less time in the rural areas where there is a

majority of constituencies that one has to win if they are attain or retain state power under the current electoral system.

If there is one serious fault about Botswana’s current electoral system, it has to be its definitive winner-takes-all bent.

Other than that it is by far much better than what our hasty comrades at opposition are calling for.

Proportional Representation by its nature gives too much power to political parties and also to party bosses.

Accordingly, it follows that such a system takes away power from the voter.

In a democracy, anything that takes away power from a voter, only to give it to a political party boss cannot be a good thing, much less in our case where politicians lack public credibility and are across the board, invariably averse to public scrutiny and public accountability.

Because Botswana’s current system is constituency based there is no party list. Every candidate is assessed on their unique strengths and attributes.

Thus the system allows the voter an ability to assess and scrutinise their representative on individual merit.

Those who leave their constituents they win elections only to come back the day the next elections are called will be punished by way of rejection at the ballot box.

In Proportional Representation poor performers can always come back – either because they are near to the top of their party list or because they are somehow favoured by party bosses. 

In short Proportional Representation creates and rewards space between the voter and the elected official while current system discourages and penalizes the existence of any such space.

Sadly, this call for electoral reform is not only confined to opposition.

Some key BDP members, worried for a life in opposition are calling for it.

It’s all about self-preservation rather than advancing the interest of the voter.

In his 22-point blueprint, electoral reform featured heavily and ultimately won the current BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane a path to that position.

The nation should resist this opportunistic political grandstanding that all of a sudden seems to be uniting these two otherwise opposing sides.

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Sunday Standard August 2 – 8

Digital copy of Sunday Standard issue of August 2 - 8, 2020.