It is clear that too many compromises are being made that could prove its undoing. For example, who gets priority from the activists, the Umbrella or the individual parties? Are the three parties going to focus on attracting members to the Umbrella or to themselves? These questions are all pertinent and in all honesty they will only get answers after September 8th when the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) is finally launched. There will be a lot of logistical problems concerning this regardless of the confidence from the drivers of the Umbrella.
The issue has the potential to vindicate critics of the Umbrella like Lemogang Ntime and Gabriel Kanjabanga. The two have argued that the Umbrella project was going to destroy the BNF and it is hard to argue with realities on the ground. In view of the fact that the BNF will not be contesting, and quite possibly the bulk of their experienced activists could be used in the Umbrella project, it is difficult to see how the BNF is going to grow during the period between now and the general elections. One might wonder why I am focusing mostly on the BNF.
Well the reason is simple really. The backbone of the Umbrella is the BNF. The BNF is the only party in this alliance that brings real numbers, real committed numbers, the BNF remains the only party other than the BDP that can boast of a loyal following that will vote them come what may. These numbers are going to be critical to the performance of the Umbrella. This is not to say that the BMD offers nothing, far from it but it is doubtful that BMD activists would argue against the notion that they are very much a young party that for the most part has the responsibility to attract new first time voters. It is clear that the BMD has not hurt the BDP; the bye elections have made this all too clear. It stands to reason therefore that the bulk of BMD supporters would be previously disenchanted voters, erstwhile apathetic people or new young people who have been mobilized and motivated to be involved in politics by the Orange movement of two years ago. This is not a terribly reliable lot. This therefore underlines the importance of the BNF voter to the Umbrella. It is not clear what the BPP brings to the mix but we will assume that they have strength in the north-we’ll conveniently overlook that they have been losing ground to the BDP in their so called stronghold.
The BNF is therefore a stabilizing factor for the Umbrella for the above reasons. One thing that is very clear is that willingly or unwillingly the BPP is resigned to disappearing from the political landscape. Without stating it they appear more willing to accept that they may well cease to exist post 2014. The BMD is seemingly not too uncomfortable with the disappearance of the party. For a party often accused of being arrogant the BMD has responded in a measured tone to incidents that could well have threatened the Umbrella. When the media was awash with reports of BNF President Duma Boko’s supposed claim to the leadership of the Umbrella, the BMD shrugged it off as a non issue. Indeed BMD supporters have shown ready acceptance of the BNF.
It is really unclear how BNF supporters are going to react to the Umbrella. One is not referring here to the legion of followers on social networking sites who have a few dozen aliases. One is referring to the products of BNF political education that will go and vote come Election Day, the sort of supporter who bleeds the gold, green and black of the BNF. The sort of supporters the Umbrella will need to challenge at the general elections in 2014. One thing is very clear though, sacrifices are going to have to be made.
Now the BNF especially under Boko’s leadership has shown some maturity in the whole cooperation process there is little to fault the BMD for as well. Real challenges however lie ahead. I am not talking obvious ones like constituency allocation or who gets to be the president of the Umbrella. I am talking about the issue of the identity of the BNF. It is doubtful that BNF members are going to be thrilled at the idea of there being no BNF on the ballot paper. They will need to be sold the idea. It is precisely this that is proving a challenge. While it is clear that Boko is all for a united opposition, possibly the total incorporation of all parties under the Umbrella, It will be a difficult argument to make to die hard BNF supporters. It will take the maturity and understanding of its partners to make things easier for BNF leaders. BMD and BPP will need to accept that the BNF must appear as the big brother when they approach members. BNF diehards must be made to feel that the soul of the BNF is the driving force of the Umbrella this could well result with reports of big brother mentality but for the success of the Umbrella BNF will have to be the big brother if only for PR purposes. Anything else could result with the Umbrella losing the BNF vote in huge chunks to the BCP.
BNF diehards will probably vote the Umbrella if their party appears to be the dominant force. The BMD as a dynamic force that once upon a time excited people who were otherwise uninterested in politics, may need to brace itself for the inevitability of being overshadowed by the BNF…hard sacrifices no doubt for the BMD but that could well be the route that leads to the success of the Umbrella. The Umbrella will not win the 2014 elections but a good performance will be crucial to its survival. A good performance does not just mean returning good numbers into parliament; they MUST outdo the BCP to make it look irrelevant. It would be counter productive for the Umbrella to admit the reality that BCP not BDP is their most immediate challenge. Outperforming the BCP will put them on the road to challenging BDP. To do this, BNF members must be molly coddled so the Umbrella does not suffer the backlash of disgruntled Puophaa members. This could well rub the wrong way a few spotlight hungry members in the BMD but such is the nature of politics…compromise.