Saturday, July 20, 2024

We need to hold tight to our current electoral system!

There is a myth fast gaining ground in Botswana that the country would be better served by replacing the current winner-takes-all electoral system with proportional representation.

To his eternal credit, President Festus Mogae has openly shot down the idea as hogwash.
For once, I agree with the President.

The myth is to a very large extent a brainchild of the opposition; largely a result of repeate unsuccessful attempts at the polls.
To account for their failures, they are now coming with all sorts of eccentric diagnosis.

Sadly and not unsurprisingly, a growing section of the ruling party, seemingly infatuated with change for the sake of it, is attracted to the opposition calls for a change; a change which would mean a big leap backward for our participatory democracy.
All sorts of reasons are now being advanced to discredit the current electoral system including by way of coming up with weirdly hyperbolic accusations that first past the post is inherently undemocratic.

That myth needs to be busted.
What needs to be done is to convince the opposition that, contrary to their growing despondency, they can actually win state power under the current system. If only they could get their act together.
Somebody also needs to convince the opposition that keeping the current system is actually in their interest.

Managing a government under proportional representation is a very difficult task, and given that they are poorly configured and prone to internal fights, it is a task our opposition would not wish upon themselves.

Proportional representation breeds anarchy.
The situation will get out of control when thrust upon structures that lack organizational discipline like is the case in some of Botswana opposition.
We need not look far to get an appreciation of the evils of proportional representation.
South Africa is a case in point.

What started as a promising democracy is fast unraveling into a circus.

In that country, thanks to proportional representation, the country has all but become ungovernable.

The system has brought about a helpless electorate, an irrelevant ruling party, a lawless cabinet and a mediocre parliament.
That is not what we want.

Our current system has many flaws, not least its inherent tendency to exaggerate the self worth of the overall winner.

The current system, when in the hands of haughty players like the BDP , can easily bring about a false sense of worth.

That is what we are experiencing with our ruling party, which does not want to accept and come to terms with the reality of its declining popular vote.
There are many things wrong with our current electoral system, but as President Mogae has repeatedly (albeit patronizingly) stated, there is no compelling public demand to change it.
In fact, Proportional Representation would be the worst answer to our problems.

PR would, as of necessity, kill the interaction between the voters and their representatives.
The system is divisive and detaches Members of Parliament from electorate while transferring real power to faceless and unaccountable party bosses.
Under PR, the party lists rule supreme.

Those who question the party bosses are either sidelined or put at the bottom of the lists where they could not make it to parliament.
This brings about docility and entrenches sycophancy.

Democracy is only rich as much as it allows for vibrant and diversity of debates.
PR actively dictates against that.

We have to be thankful that our system, which allows the direct election of Members of Parliament, also puts into check the potentially excessive power of party bosses.

Because under proportional representation there are no constituencies to seriously talk about, the electorate invariably gets detached from their supposed representatives. This breeds about unaccountability.

This in turn makes it very easy for governments and parliament to disregard the popular wishes of the people.

Thus it can be sincerely and genuinely argued that proportional representation disempowers the voters.

With the country fighting a losing battle against voter apathy, it would be reckless to even toss around with suggestions of PR as the situation can only get out of hand.

As President Mogae so eloquently put it at the BDP National Council, our current system allows, in fact, demands a direct and frequent interaction between politicians and the voters.

This is so precisely because under our system ultimate power resides with the voters.
There is no such interaction under a system of Proportional Representation.

In fact, PR is in many ways flawed.
For once I find myself in total agreement with President Mogae.


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