Mmegi Blogs :: A minority government to survive on specially elected?
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A minority government to survive on specially elected?

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) of President Ian Khama won the general elections held on 24 October 2014 by a minority vote - polling 46.7 percent of the votes cast.
By Michael Dingake Tue 04 Nov 2014, 15:51 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: A minority government to survive on specially elected?








Under the constitution of Botswana the BDP however is a lawful and legitimate government in spite of using the questionable First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system, since it was approved by our parliament. The system none-theless isn’t as democratic It should be. For example take a constituency with 30,000 registered voters. Three parties are competing for the seat; assume the three, share the votes as follows: Party X -12,000, Party Y - 10,000, Party Z – 8,000; Party X wins the seat though the combined poll of Y and Z (10,000 + 8,000 =18,000) exceeds Party X’s votes by 6,000! Is it fair?

If democracy is premised on the majority principle, you wonder why this electoral system passes the democracy test.  Explanation is: Democracy is based on the rule of law which often can be a rigmarole  process:  In terms of democracy people make the constitution, the supreme law of the country; if the constitution passed by parliamentary representatives (MP) states that , ‘the FPTP’ electoral system shall be the method used in the country to determine who wins the general elections whenever held, then that’s the indisputable law which must be obeyed. And it’s democratic . Why must I then complain of a minority government when it is quite legal and constitutional?

The reason is simple. Human society under which the Botswana nation falls is dynamic. It isn’t static, it changes when change demands. In the same way that human society in its evolution and revolution has changed from one mode of production to another: slave system, feudal system, capitalist system and is currently pregnant with a hybrid system neither slave, feudal or capitalist, we must prepare for delivery of the new baby when it arrives. What we suggest  is that we must review the evolving  conception of democracy and adapt it to the available space and time in which we live. FPTP electoral system has been overtaken by events; it doesn’t serve the interests of Batswana today. We are a dynamic nation religiously in step with the world progressive nations.  Forced to play a catch-up game, we must accelerate our pace.

The FPTP electoral system might have served us in the past proportionate to our interests then.  The time a-changing. We must adapt to changes imposed on us by the circumstances and the changes we ourselves adjudge to be suitable. As Batswana we have come to accept that our claim to equality between men and women is bare theory without a tinge of practice.

We’re a modern society which continues to live in the historic past. Our womenfolk are relegated to political backwaters and consequently affect our socio-politico-economic potential in production and social relations. We have in principle accepted

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gender equality but are failing to make headway on its implementation.

The major stumbling block is lack of political will by the ruling party and its resultant refusal to drop the FPTP electoral system for the Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system (preferably Mixed  PR  system to retain the so-called advantages of the FPTP system). Under the PR electoral system progress is achievable as discernable in the SADC states who have adopted it.

The BDP government has stubbornly resisted to sign the SADC Gender Protocol which requires members to have a 50/50 parity of males and females in the SADC member parliaments. 

SADC members who have signed the Protocol are moving inexorably towards the parity quota desired. In Rwanda a country that experienced a horrible genocide and noted the inestimable value of women has more women MPs. In Botswana the number of women MPs decline after every general election.

 Why is the ruling BDP moving in reverse when all the countries which call themselves democratic are moving apace? Khama’s predecessors at least used to pretend that they weren’t oblivious of the need to increase women MPs in parliament, using the parliamentary dispensation of ‘Specially elected  MPs.’ Not the President Khama’s administration. He would rather reduce the number of specially elected women MPs instead of upping it. That’s the first thing  he did when he was inaugurated as president in his first term. When he began his second and last term of office on 24/10/14, he appointed only one specially elected woman MP, former judge, Dr Unity Dow as assistant Minister!

Incidentally the provision of additional specially elected MPs is increasingly seen as a godsend provision to bolster the dwindling numbers of the ruling party and keep it in power. The recent polls drastically reduced BDP MPs majority to 17, the specially elected  MPs (four) pushed the number to 21. The constitution doesn’t say the specially elected members should be drawn from the ranks of the ruling party alone, but since the administration of the provision is by the majority party, the numbers without variation have swelled its party parliamentary benches and its coffers as every party member is obliged to donate to the party, they belong to. Had the BDP had a majority of one from the general elections, the specially elected seats would have given the party a cushion of five members and saved it from a narrow precarious margin of one!

The SEMPs provision has outlived the objective for which it was created. At independence it was justified by lack of ‘parliamentary material’ of voluntary candidates. It’s no longer the case. The 11th Botswana Parliament has a plethora of University graduates to indicate SEMPs  are no longer justifiable!

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