Afrobarometer, a Pan-African non-partisan research network this week stopped short of putting its head on the block and stating that the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) will win the 2019 general elections and instead said the country’s official opposition “will make further gains” in 2019 if it does not shoot itself in the foot like the Botswana National Front in 1998.
This is the first time any international research institution has come close to predicting a regime change in Botswana.
The survey further revealed that for the first time, more Batswana agree that the opposition provides a viable alternative to the ruling BDP as opposed to those who disagree. “A plurality of 44% of Batswana agrees that (versus 38% who disagree) opposition provides a viable alternative to the ruling party. Furthermore the combined strength of the Umbrella for Democratic Change coalition resulted in a highly competitive election in October 2014. For the first time in the country’s history the BDP won less than two thirds majority of parliamentary seats in contention and its share of the popular vote dipped below half (46,45%). This unprecedented opposition success may point towards further gains in 2019, but similar advances by the BNF in the 1994 elections were lost after infighting led to the creation of a breakaway party in 1998, further splitting the opposition vote.
The Afrobarometer survey further revealed declines in the country’s perception of democracy since President Lt Gen Ian Khama assumed office in 2008. “The proportion of Batswana who perceive an adequate supply of democracy in the country ( i.e. those who both see the country as a democracy and are satisfied with the way democracy works) has declined by 17 percentage points since 2008 to 63%”states the report. The report goes further to suggest a link between Botswana’s declining perception of democracy and President Khama’s authoritarian rule: “Following President Khama’s confirmation in April 2008, analysts feared that his military background would have a detrimental effect on the country’s democracy, as reflected in his assertion, during his inaugural address that there can be no democracy without discipline (Lekorwe 2009). Concerns were heightened by a series of controversies that included a number of extra judicial killings linked to state security forces (2008-2009) the first major split in the ruling party following an internal struggle (2010) and the termination of striking public sector workers (Freedom House 2015)” states the Afrobarometer report.
These conclusions are supported by report findings which reflect Batswana’s growing commitment to civil liberties. “Interestingly, civil liberties (for example basic freedoms of speech, assembly and association) overtook popular rule as the most frequently cited meaning of democracy between 1999 and 2005. As at 2014, such liberties were the primary interpretation for 30% of Batswana. Conversely democracy’s association with popular rule declined from mostly cited response (24%) in 199 to third place 10% in 2014 and its association with peace and unity declined by 3 percentage points.”
Afrobarometer says Botswana’s declines in perceived supply of democracy may alternatively reflect the fact that citizens routinely re-evaluate regime performance as democracies mature often raising their expectations.
The findings by Afrobarometer support earlier findings by the World Justice Index report which revealed that under President Ian Khama’s administration, Botswana has suffered a gradual regression in the rule of law: government is becoming more dictatorial and less accountable, respect for fundamental human rights is being eroded while corruption has gone up and the justice system is becoming less effective.
Research by the World Justice Project Rule of Law Index 2015 has revealed that Botswana is the only country in the region which showed a downward trend on “constraints on government powers,” during the 2015 review period. The index shows government’s accountability and the extent to which there are adequate checks on executive authority. It measures the extent to which those who govern are bound by law. It comprises the means, both constitutional and institutional, by which the powers of the government and its officials and agents are limited and held accountable under law. It also includes non-governmental checks on the government’s power, such as a free and independent press.
Explaining the index, the report states that, “Government checks take many forms: they do not operate solely in systems marked by a formal separation of powers, nor are they necessarily codified in law. What is essential, however is that authority is distributed whether by formal rules or by convention in a manner that ensures that no single organ of government has the practical ability to exercise unchecked power.”
Records show that Between 2012 and 2015, Botswana has dropped from position one to position three in the region and from position 20 to position 32 in the world on accountability and constrains on government powers. The country’s score has also dropped from 0.73 to 0.63 in the period. The project does not have any indices on Botswana prior to 2012. The records however show that Botswana has been regressing in almost all indicators of rule of law between 2012 and 2015.
The country performed the worst on “fundamental human rights” and currently ranks sixth in the region down from fifth during the 2012-2013 review period. Botswana’s global ranking also dropped from 51st in 2012-13 to55 in 2015 while the country score dropped from 0.59 to 0.56 which is considered a very low score. Although Botswana retained its position as the least corrupt country in the region the index suggests a growth in the level of corruption in Botswana between the 2012-13 review period and 2015 with the country’s score dropping significantly from 0.75 to 0.65 and falling in the global rank from 22 to 29.
The reports also showed a weakening of the country’s regulatory authority. This index measures the extent to which regulations are fairly and effectively implemented and enforced. Although Botswana retained its position one on the regional ranks, it dropped from position 17 in the global rank during the 2012-13 review period to position 22 during the 2015 review period. The country’s score also went down from 0.71 to 0.66 between the two review periods.
Botswana also slid back on the “criminal justice” and “civil justice” indices. Although Botswana still ranks number one in the region on both indices, the report shows that the country went down five places on the global ranking, from 17 in 2012-12 to 22 in 2015 while its score went down from 0.71 to 0.66. On the criminal justice index, Botswana went down nine positions in the global ranking, from position 18 to position 27 while its score dropped significantly from 0.72 to 0.61.
The only area where Botswana is showing an improvement is on the index of “order and security.” The country has retained its leading position on the regional ranking and has gone up nine places on the global rank from position 37 to position 28 while its score went up from 0.76 to 0.81.