Monday, January 24, 2022

Vote splitting will wreck opposition’s most glorious opportunity

For close to a month now, I have alone tried to come up with a picture of how the October General Elections are likely to pan out. The outcome has been a particularly painful one to decipher. Two scenarios have remained constantly etched on my mind. The first is that of a ruling party that will lose so badly that ordinary members will in the following days demand the leader to sacrifice many of the central committee members who will inevitably be held personally responsible for the crash.

However bad such a loss might turn out to be, we have to keep reminding infernal optimists in the opposition ranks that the emerging picture is that of a BDP that would still be in power after October elections. What such a big loss will however portend to do would be to bust the longstanding myth of invincibility that the BDP has so gainfully traded on for decades now. The second other picture to emerge has been that of an opposition that in all its formations will itself be routed so badly that the following morning after elections almost all of the contesting parties would have new faces for leaders.

If the oppositions suffer such a big loss, as it happened in 1998, it would inevitably perpetuate an illusion among ruling party adherents that the BDP is indeed god sent, that it can survive and withstand whatever comes its way. We point these two extreme cases because given the rate at which things are going there is unlikely to be any middle ground come October. We are headed for extreme cases. As a country we should not only be worried, we also should prepare ourselves for such an eventuality.

We should be worried because a real possibility exists that some parties might wake up one October morning to shocking news that they have been altogether wiped and banished from such institutions like parliament ÔÇô very much the same way as it happened to Botswana Peoples Party many years ago. One thing for certain is that for some such parties, such a big loss might prove not only therapeutic but also humbling. Arrogance and lying through the teeth might for them just become a thing of the past. The tragedy though is that such extreme developments can hardly be a good thing for our democracy. There is no mistaking the fact that all political parties are now caught up in the elections fever.

The uncertainty that we see around us is good. The days when the BDP swaggered into elections without a bother are long gone. For their part, the ruling party is consumed by panic. Many things have lately not been going their way, much less according to plan. More than ever before the ruling party today is worried by the growing influence of the united opposition. What the BDP wants to achieve immediately is to rid itself the burden that any opposition formation in this country can be credible enough as to be entrusted with power. The UDC, and to a lesser extent the BCP are putting on a strong face ÔÇô expecting the best while preparing for the worst, so to speak.

The BCP knows that a bad performance at the polls will bring back to the fore pointed questions on how the party ended up outside of the opposition unity loop. When that gets to pass the ongoing pretexts that the talks collapsed would not be able to stand any public scrutiny. More troubling for the BCP will be if it turns out that the UDC profited from their misfortune. At BCP leadership level, such a loss would give impetus to the now isolated and somewhat discredited voices within the party who silently suffer in the belief that their party would be stronger and more effective had it participated in the unity project. Such a development would provide traction for the BCP to join ÔÇô from a weakened position, we might add. For UDC, annihilation at the polls would validate such people like Gabriel Kanjabanga and Lemogang Ntime, currently condemned as renegade hotheads who fought might and main to get the BNF out of the unity formation, that UDC was all hot air. While all political parties seem to be already relishing the elections mood, for the ordinary members of the public this is not time to be obsessed with self confidence.

We still need to educate ourselves on how we can influence events at the polls without giving excessively too much power to anyone and thereby sending wrong messages that can only lead to self-fulfilling prophecies, including vote splitting. An excessively strong win for the BDP we all have to bear in mind would inevitably mean the party returning to its bad old ways of factional fighting and internal instability. Infinite hours would as a result be dedicated to party infighting rather than to managing the country. But the biggest enemy to our democracy remains vote splitting.

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