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Thursday 18 December 2014, 14:58 pm.
UDC: The beginning of the realignment of political forces?

The launching of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) potentially, note potentially, is the event that will lead to a realignment of political forces in Botswana.
By Staff Writer Sun 21 Dec 2014, 00:12 am (GMT +2)
Mmegi Online :: UDC: The beginning of the realignment of political forces?

'Potentially' because the strength of an Umbrella without the BCP may just not be enough to bring about immediate change-and coalitions themselves have behind their formation the desire for quick returns-some immediacy about attaining state power'; in their very nature as marriages of convenience that unite sometimes disparate entities they are unable to stick for long.

In the year 2012 alone we have seen some notable coalitions run into trouble. In Prague PM Petr Necas narrowly averted the collapse of his coalition over corruption scandals; the Greek ruling coalition also collapsed this year amid economic turmoil; little known Kyrgyzstan's ruling coalition has collapsed after eight months in power, the Israeli mega coalition also collapsed this year. The most known hope remains the Conservatives-Lib. Dems coalition in the United Kingdom and it has also become a major suspect for collapse. The history of coalitions's longevity is not rosy.

And this is the nature of coalitions, people with major differences in outlook can coexist but only for so long because the largest conflict brewer in politics, self interest aside - and even self interest may be born out of this, is the difference in approach and goals/interests.

It is important though to consider the nature of coalitions and whether their nature dictates how they fare. It is also important to crunch the numbers from previous elections to see if they give us much to extrapolate to 2014.On the basis of the 2009 general election, could we see the Umbrella as a formation that will take over power in 2014? This will follow.

Studying the history of coalitions and seeking to come up with a model that dictates success, Axelrod and Bennett (1993) in 'A Landscape Theory of Aggregation' published in the  British Journal of Political Science posited that 'Actor i's frustration depends on her affinity with each of the other actors and on the value of some intrinsic property of each actor on the basis of size or influence. Thus, when an alternative exists, parties tend to do a cost-benefit analysis of continuing in an arrangement, going sole or initiating contact with another party-in this case that outlet being the BCP.

In their incremental assumption, any state where no actor wants to change coalition unilaterally is absorbing. Since an assumption exists that "no actor who wants to change coalition is permanently prevented from doing so" then coalitions must strive to reach an absorbing state. This is to say the coalitions needs to reach some point of no return-a point where actors believe they will lose out by leaving the arrangement unilaterally. In game theory that state is known as a Nash equilibrium.

The BCP effect cannot be left out in any consideration of the fortunes of the Umbrella. The BCP's continued existence as an autonomous entity will offer an outlet for any member of the coalition who gets frustrated enough to leave the Umbrella. Its mere existence means Umbrella parties have an opportunity to decide to leave the current coalition or stay in it by comparing the current frustration, if ever there is any frustration, with the frustration that such party would have if they formed some coalition with the BCP. It provides leverage, actually competition, for some cost-benefit analysis that the Umbrella parties must forever beware of-especially given BCP's history with successful mergers.

The Umbrella will reach a state of 'Nash equilibrium' and an 'absorbing state' through a showing at the 2014 election that results in either victory or a loss that is decent enough to suggest minimal effort will lead to victory in 2019. On the basis of this, let's now turn to the constituencies and how they are likely to shape up and by extension what the shelf life of the UDC is likely to be.  The year 2009 was not very kind to the BNF. It lost its appeal in Gaborone, lost Lobatse, and continued a pattern of decline in Francistown, Okavango and Selebi-Phikwe. Even more painful, it had no show in Tswapong, Bobirwa and most of the north east. Forget the central part of the country. It says then that the Front made some decent efforts in the South-notably Kgalagadi and Ngwaketse - where they were still not up to their best. A historical high of 37% of the popular vote now stands at just about 23%.

The traditional bulwarks of Kgalagadi, Ngwaketse, Kanye and possibly Kgatleng remain loyal to a high degree however, and are part of the problem. While being BNF strongholds is a great plus, they too may just prove to be part of what breeds complacency - the knowledge that 'we would still win something'. But the Umbrella must not rely on just these if it is to become a serious challenger. Winning those constituencies will merely be a return to the BNF's position of 1994.

The Umbrella needs to win new territory; attract new voters and forge strategic alliances with labour and other organised groups in society if it is to be effective. As well, it faces the dilemma of having to raid BDP strongholds as there just isn't any other way. Consider this: Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Mompati Merafhe (now Bernard Bolele), Mokgweetsi Masisi, Major Gen. Moeng Pheto, Daniel Kwelagobe, Dikgakgamatso Seretse, Tshekedi Khama, Prince Maele, Frank Ramsden, Ponatshego kedikilwe, Pono Moatlhodi all beat their opponents by a margin more than 3,000 votes in the 2009 general election. Even the birth of the BMD will not sway these numbers because none of these has defected, Moyo aside, to the BMD either way. This is where the headache is going to be for the UDC in 2014.  Together, these top marksman accounted for 44,449 of the national vote in the general elections. Each one of them has also passed the double turnover test as they both have been tested and voted for on more than one occasion - save for Masisi, and now Bolele in place ofMerafhe. Add Guma Moyo to that list.

The 12, if you include Moyo who has since returned, front runners account for about 9 percent of the 555,308 people who voted nationally and also accounted for nearly 16 percent of the 290,099 Batswana who voted BDP.That is 16 percent out of 53.3 percent of the BDP popular vote. As such, 21 percent of BDP Mps accounted for almost 30 percent of the BDP's popular vote. These numbers are stark in themselves, unless something miraculous happens, the BDP already has 21 percent (12) of MPs in parliament. They are assured of this, add the four specially-elected and you have 16 MPs.  What are the implications of this?  First, it means a formula to depose the BDP from power is highly unlikely to succeed without the breaking of this core.

In comparison, the opposition high riders were Saleshando with a margin of 3,440. He may retain it but the irony is he faces the battle of his life, perhaps even worse than during his maiden campaign against Margaret Nasha, in the event of the UDC fielding Gomolemo Motswaledi and the BDP a strong enough candidate.

The only other opposition MP with a margin of triumph more than 1,000 votes is Kgatleng East's Isaac Mabiletsa with a margin 1,667: he too has his own issues as he has defected from the BNF to the BCP.  But there is no point in despairing; you can still look at the constituencies I term moderate-where one cannot really say the other candidates were absolutely dominated. The moderates in this case are the legislators who won the general election by margins of more than 1,000 though shy of the 3,000 votes golden perch of safety. This is looking at the fact that such margins have in the past proven not too volatile and that 25 percent of registered voters do not vote.

Why are they important for 2014? These 20 constituencies form 42 percent of the seats in parliament. Of any of the three categories, whoever gets the lion share, is near sure to win a general election. After all, the safe constituencies we last discussed form 21% of the seats in the current parliament, an important 21% though. If the UDC is unable to break into these two upper categories of relatively safe seats then there is a problem. They can get statistician and political scientists to map the constituencies for them. While the constituencies that were won by fringe margins, or those that were won via a margin under 1,000 form 39% of the seats in parliament-the problem with these though is that they could go either way; as such, any serious spin master will want to win them but not base their hopes on them.

You put lots of resources at winning them then what? They are important in an election that is a close call and where the popular vote matters. The popular vote though will matter for the BCP and the UDC-not for purposes of governing but for being able to brag about being bigger than the other and having grown the most. The BCP likely will lose this-unless they field candidates across 57 constituencies as the UDC will be doing. The marginal rural constituencies, due to low levels of unionisation and traditional support for the BDP are likely to go with the BDP as expected. Fielding candidates there will still help the popular vote and the UDC stands to benefit from their ability to field people nationally.  But wait, there is a tip for all the parties-on average, about 25 percent of registered voters just do not vote on polling day. Where do they go? That 25 percent could make a difference.

As well, we do not know as yet the impact of last year's public service sector workers strike. Opposition parties that stuck by the workers may just benefit. Regardless, we look set to see some realignment of political forces in opposition. The BDP will still triumph, the UDC needs to find ways to stick together after what is an imminent defeat while the BCP will need to 'behave', be forced to even.

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