It is only three more days to Election Day and indeed the heat is on, judging from the last campaign rallies by the three main contending parties. The first batch of voters exercised their rights over the weekend when citizens based outside the country and those who will be officiating this coming Friday went to the various polling stations to vote. Whilst there are reports of problems of availability of ballot papers which led to stopping of voting in some areas, one can only wish that it does not become a precursor of what will likely happen on Election Day. I hope the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will promptly address any issues related to this unfortunate situation, because if not, it will compromise the integrity and fairness of this election.
Friday is THE DAY to finally give us answers to many questions that we have been asking ourselves, such as how will each of the contending parties fare?, is the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) a viable project for future opposition politics and are Batswana ready to embrace change?, Is the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) “ready to govern”? And will vote splitting amongst opposition parties be a factor? How will the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) fare this time around? These and many other questions will finally be laid to rest by the voters on Friday as they pass their verdict.
The last campaign events by the BDP, UDC & BCP were indicative of how the stakes are so high this time around. The Helicopters and Buses’ tours have been intense and more frequent, with party presidents rallying the troops in more than one rally a day. One must admit and appreciate the campaign efforts of the opposition parties because it never occurred to some of us that there will come a time when opposition leaders or parties will be thorough in their campaigns to come this close to matching the BDP, as we see it happening in these pre-election campaigns. It is on the basis of these campaigns that indeed the voter should be seeing a level of seriousness and commitment to be resourceful and actually spend the amount of resources available to them. This alone presents opposition parties as credible alternatives, at least from that perspective. In my last instalment I had indicated some of the answers this election will provide and this week I want to emphasise that central to any answer to emerge out of this election, is the who amongst the three parties will be the main opposition.
The above expectation is premised, in particular on the long standing feud, mistrust and some element of arrogance as to who is the main opposition especially between the BCP and UDC. I want to believe that following these elections we should be able to see a clearer path for opposition politics, hopefully defining the character and nature of opposition cooperation beyond 2014. I am saying this because one of the interesting scenarios likely to emerge from the results would be the small margins the BDP will have in certain constituencies where a united opposition could have easily won the seat, especially at parliamentary level. I am aware that some don’t see this as an issue, at least in the short term, but I am convinced that it is an issue that this election can help resolve so that the road map for future opposition cooperation becomes much clearer and more likely to arrive at consensus built around the strength of the political parties especially the UDC and BCP. One would wonder why I think there is need for possible merger or cooperation between the two, it is based largely on the type of programmes they espouse. The manifestos of the two, policies and general approach to development issues clearly shows a lot of similarities than differences and if there are any differences it could largely be on the detail of how to implement and maybe how to prioritize the development processes. This in my view calls for a long term push for cooperation, especially if none of the two assumes outright power in the elections.
Having said the above, I am also mindful of the desire to push for separateness between the two, by elements within both parties and my view has been that at some point reality has to dawn in and this for me is that, if neither the BCP nor the UDC assumes outright majority in this coming elections, the need for opposition cooperation if not the merger between the two, will become apparent, irrespective of who between the two becomes the main opposition. I am aware that becoming the major opposition could be satisfying for elements within the two who are only looking at the short term and this in my view would be a dangerous comfort zone to hide in. This election are going to further entrench the long standing known fact that in as much as there are differences between the UDC and BCP, the long term reality is that, they will need each other, including for a possible coalition government if the BDP fails to get the magic numbers. I will also argue that even if they find space for each other under a coalition government that should only be a short term position, to be worked out to attain a long term desirable status for what has been opposition terrain for the last forty eight years.
It is against the above that my wish is that this election can deliver the kind of result that will help manage what has been chest beating and egoistic believes and utterances coming from some elements in the opposition. Some of the utterances border come about as misplaced arrogance and disregard for the bigger picture that the opposition parties ought to be focusing on and I want to repeat that my one wish is that this election assists us on the way forward post 2014. In my view the way forward rests on a united opposition, especially if the verdict on Friday is a win for the BDP, irrespective of the margins.