Mmegi Blogs :: BCP, where do they go from here?
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Friday 16 November 2018, 11:44 am.
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BCP, where do they go from here?

No doubt it has been a bruising election. One also full of smokescreens. No party perhaps has ever gotten so little for so much as the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) has gotten from this election. Sweat, toil and blood they put in, loads of tears they shed in the end and some have been calling for an urgent retreat to map the way forward.
By Lawrence Ookeditse Tue 11 Nov 2014, 13:04 pm (GMT +2)
Mmegi Blogs :: BCP, where do they go from here?








The narrative is that the BCP was the biggest loser in this election. Given this, they might as well close shop and join the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). I think for a year at least, the BCP must do noting of that sort- rather, BCP must use this year gap as a period to self evaluate and only then decide to join other formations or go it alone after cooling off and taking stock.

The conclusion that they were defeated resoundingly at the polls is imagined, by those who think the number of parliamentarians is the most important thing in the Westminster system. While it may be the case for parties that emerge first and second (because one of them must form a government) the popular vote is actually a better indicator of future performance for a party that comes third- it is a better gauge of its support across the country hence a more dependable statistic for deciding how the future of a party looks. The popular vote of the Botswana People's Party (BPP) is a case in point, but that is subject for another day.

Fine, they came third, with a popular vote that stands at 20 percent, an additional 35 000 or so votes from the past election and three sets in parliament. But that is no train smash. This is why:

This is election campaign was not the easiest we have had. A lot of factors were at play and anyone who was not in the UDC was bound to suffer. The tragic passing on of Gomolemo Motswaledi, perhaps Botswana's most tragic death since Lesoma, was always going to throw truck loads of sympathy votes to the UDC. But it is not just this sad event: the UDC mastered the propaganda trail and was helped by a sympathetic media- and hats off to the UDC for their mastery of the art of information packaging, and at times distortion for political gain. It is what parties do to win.

A lot of things that were unproven were mentioned so many times in the media they became fact in the minds of some of our people. The UDC also hoarded the social media space, with the use in part of loads of intimidation. The 'clean politics' guys at the BCP and BDP (with the exception of a few) looked and looked away, fearing to comment and this allowed the UDC to own the social media space. Practically then, it also allowed them to own a perhaps unprecedented level of the youth vote which you would ordinarily have expected the BCP to cash in on.

The UDC was successful at painting the BCP as the guys who refused to cooperate with other opposition parties. They succeeded at painting Dumelang Saleshando as a guy who opposes Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) by day and sleeps with them over night. He was then branded a watermelon- red on the inside, green on the outside. A famous cartoon, Botsalo Ntuanesque, was concocted by a good propagandist: on it, Dumelang Saleshando bore the BDP symbol, that old school car Jack, on his forehead, as though to proclaim he is the chosen one- chosen by the BDP and revelling in being the anointed one, thus not being one to bring about meaningful change. See?

The propaganda machinery did not only target the BCP. The BDP was successfully branded a calamity Batswana cannot afford to bear for another five years. The UDC sold, with remarkable success, the idea that there was a burning need to change government immediately to avert a looming end

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to civilization as we know it in this arid part of the world, an impending apocalypse that would relegate Rwanda 1994, Chernobyl and Fukushima to child's play- perhaps to be matched only by the atrocities of the German Fuhr Adolf Hitler in the 1930s and 40s. Neither the BDP nor the BCP called any of these bluffs. And they stuck. The BDP became the devil himself, the BCP the devil's disciple if ever there is any such.

The BCP focused their message on jobs. This was commendable but perhaps it ignored the fact that a good number of our people are excitable and as David Magang wrote revel in petty little things that do not put bread on the table. Important message yes, a good experiment at messaging yes. The big lesson here though is that the message is important but equally important is an ability to also jab, and repel untruths with as much zeal- never leave it to the people to figure it out because they will not.

In the light of all these, the BCP still got 20 percent of the vote. The UDC got 30 percent. Essentially, three parties got a share of 30 percent, while an individual party coming third (I've never believed the salesmanship that BCP is a coalition because it is not) got 20 percent. This is instructive.

The seats in parliament do not reflect these numbers yes-17 to just 3. But what the vote share represents is that the BCP has 20 percent of the electorates who are not fair weather supporters, or tourists. These are fundamental supporters of the party who backed it during a tough election in which it was branded everything anti progress. Very important. The BCP then does not have the challenge the UDC has: holding onto supporters who may not be fundamental supporters of the movement. The fleeting voter who swings his/her votes to the most fashionable party at the moment which in this case was the UDC formation.

Equally important, the BCP suffered collateral damage from attacks that were aimed at the BDP. After a tough five years, Batswana needed to send a strong message to the BDP, to let the BDP know they will not stand aside and watch as their country burnt to ashes (the UDC narrative). With the BCP branded another BDP, an outlet valve for that anger from BDP members became the UDC. With the global economy looking stable in the next five years and a new President taking the BDP to the 2019 election, things could be different with these BDP 'votes for rent returning to their party. This is why the UDC will go into the 2019 elections as under pressure to prove that they can retain or better their numbers in an environment in which a DIS in disarray, a world economic crisis, a tragic death and a military background President are not factors to use for their propaganda campaign.

The BCP, then, must stay calm and focused. For now, that is the most important thing. There is no point to pick fights, and no point to feel dejected. In my narrative, they came third, they did not lose. Besides, they are the only party in this country whose options are wide open: they could stay on their own and be a government in future, they could join the UDC, and they could join the BDP and still remain relevant. Owing to their good behavior and clean politics, they have their options wide open. The only thing to avoid is acting rash out of an imagined sense of electoral defeat.

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