Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Will 2019 general election mirror that of 1994?

Seven years after the fact, the analysis of Professor Bertha Osei-Hwedie at the University of Botswana was that the Botswana National Front (BNF) performed as well as it did in a general election because of “a combination of dissatisfaction with unemployment, poverty, corruption scandals and the government refusal to grant workers’ request for annual increase.” That description fits 2017 but she was actually describing 1994 when the BNF won the highest number of seats and votes a single opposition party ever won in the country’s history. In two years, Botswana goes to the polls and the problems that drove voters to the BNF have multiplied.

Around 1994, university graduates who walked the streets were those absenting themselves from work. In 2017, it is jobless graduates who walk the streets. Then poverty plagued the have-nots; in 2017, there has emerged a sub-group of the working poor. In 1994, very few corruption scandals involved millions of pula; today one too many such cases involve billions of pula. Then civil servants got salary increases almost every year; today they can go for five years without such increases. Does this adverse situation guarantee good performance or even a win for the opposition in the 2019 general election? Not really.

In an academic paper that quotes Osei-Hwedie’s work, Professor David Sebudubudu, Keratilwe Bodilenyane and Phana Kwerepe ÔÇô also of UB ÔÇô say that similar factors such as those that prevailed in the 1994 elections, manifested themselves ahead of the 2014 elections but the ruling Botswana Democratic Party still won.

“A combination of those factors as well as others such as the decline of the education sector, shortage of water and intermittent power cuts played themselves out resulting in the opposition parties as a collective winning more votes (50 percent) in the 2014 general election, but these were not translated into sufficient seats to win state power,” the trio writes in “The Politics of Opposition Electoral Coalitions and Alliances in Botswana.”

By themselves, adverse factors don’t guarantee a win by the opposition. In the particular case of the 2014 elections, the opposition ÔÇô particularly the Botswana Congress Party ÔÇô should have cooperated with other opposition parties. That would have been in the form of the party joining the Umbrella for Democratic Change, an opposition collective.

“The failure to agree on a model of cooperation has, in the main, thwarted opposition cooperation resulting in the formation of a fragile coalition, the UDC. However, this proved not sufficient to allow it to wrestle power from the BDP, with the BCP not being part of this coalition,” the trio asserts.

Three years later however, BCP is part of the renamed Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC+), which condition should provide conscious hope that 2019 will finish the electoral revolution that 1994 started. However, there is grave concern in UDC+ that the voting technology that the Independent Electoral Commission plans to acquire from India for the 2019 elections will manufacture results that will ensure that the BDP stays in power. The theory is that with the brazen criminality of some BDP leaders having been exposed, there is fear among the latter of what would happen to them if the UDC wins. UDC president, Duma Boko, has publicly stated that his government will prosecute all criminal BDP leaders. In a country that retains the death penalty, the stakes are extremely high.

RELATED STORIES

Read this week's paper