Indeed who can blame them? BDP appears to have risen from what appeared to be the beginning of the end for the ruling party. Not so long ago the BDP was on the ropes and getting battered from all sides. The opposition parties were in sync, the Unions were mad at government and encouraging opposition unity. Expressions like victory is at hand became signatures of opposition activists.
With a little under two years left before the elections, the tables have been turned and it is the opposition that appears to be in tatters; their credibility certainly is. This has aroused fervor among ruling party activists. They are on the roll and they are letting opposition parties know. To rub salt into the wounds, the recent announcement by president Khama that there will be some salary increment to Civil Servants, you begin to appreciate just how much of a challenge the opposition parties are facing. Don’t be surprised if next year they get another increment, in fact don’t be surprised if by 2014 the increments would have reached the 16% initially requested by the unions. Batswana have short memories by 2014 with all this happening the BDP will be looking like a Godsend.
Does this therefore mean the opposition parties are out of the contest? Certainly not, though an admission needs to be made that they are not likely to improve much on their current representation in parliament. All may seem nice and comfortable for the resurgent BDP but the titanic has yet to encounter what could well be its iceberg; the primaries. BDP has decided to hold their primary elections early in those ‘hard to win’ constituencies and those held by opposition. This was smart considering that whoever wins would still most likely lose come the general elections. What however must be considered is that the BDP’s last primary elections were quite tumultuous. They resulted with the highest ever number of independent candidates at local level and a fair amount of disgruntled candidates at constituency level. The problem initially looked like it had been dealt with when BMD was formed; the assumption rightly or wrongly being that all the malcontents had gone to BMD. While this may have had some degree of truth in it, this is not altogether the real deal. It cannot be denied that standing on the BDP ticket vastly improves your chance of getting political seats. There is a lot of awareness to this fact. The way BDP will handle primary elections will largely reflect on their showing. It is critical that the BDP realize that their strength right now will only attract more interest from those chasing political office. Add that to the number of some BMD returnees and BDP has a potential to create fireworks. The preference by the BDP leadership for retiring bureaucrats civil servant and business people largely seen as elitist is likely to rub the so called grass roots politicians the wrong way. A fine battle is already brewing in the Kgatleng West constituency where both Tosh Kgotlele and Unity Dow appear to be jostling for a foot hold in the constituency. The BDP establishment appears to favour the former High court judge while Kgotlele appears to have been working the area for a while as he even holds an elected position in the party. The scenario is playing itself out in one or two other constituencies in the country with the likes of Pono Moatlhodi appearing to be slightly out of favour.
It is in how these primary elections are going to be held that could well give opposition some hope. They could be the happy recipients of the fallout between BDP candidates. It has happened in enough constituencies enough times. Mogoditshane in 1994 being a case in point where BDP candidates who lost out were accused of de-campaigning the winners. The last elections also saw a fair number of independents split gnaw at the BDP vote. The BDP primary elections therefore represent possibly the single biggest challenge that BDP has to overcome to win the 2014 elections.
For opposition to win, they will need a crisis of last year’s civil servant strike proportions, they may well get it given the fluidity of events in Botswana but in the absence of such, they will have to be ready to capitalize on the fallout from BDP primaries. In fact it maybe in their best interest to look to sabotage the BDP in ways that they have successfully and gleefully sabotaged each other.