Next year this time, we will be talking weeks if not days to the general election. But if what is happening in the political landscape is anything to go by, Botswana may have the lowest voter turnout in history.
The political schisms have left bitter taste in the mouth, so much that a scan of the voting tents around the country are showing a pathetic picture. Batswana are staying away from registration…
Voter apathy is not new to Botswana. In fact, every five years, there is an outcry of less and less Batswana registering, and even less casting their vote. Figures of the registered, and those that finally cast the vote on Election Day, have been hovering below 50%.
This time, unless something dramatically happens between now and October 2019, we may find ourselves with as low as 30% of people going to the poll. In fact, I don’t see 15% registering in the first round ending next month.
I shudder to think what could have happened had the controversial amendments to the Electoral Act which disallowed supplementary registration among other things, been implemented.
There are many reasons why we are not in a hurry to go and sit on those hard benches in military tents across the country, to register for next year’s general elections. One big reason is we are despondent. As the world has been told in the last two surveys, we are among some of the unhappy nations. We are just not a happy people. We are angry, at everything.
But it is the turbulent political landscape that could have the majority staying clear of the polling stations.
For a while now, the internal wrangles in all the political parties have had people on nerves.
Though not new, especially in the opposition ranks, infighting in the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has led to a whole host of problems, not only in the BDP but the country as a whole.
Having ruled with little threat to losing power for 52 years now, the BDP woes affect the rest of the nation in one way or the other.
When the party is in turmoil, the government is shaken to the core. The civil services is thrown into mismanagement, corruption and all sorts of nasties happen, at every end of our lives. We have, especially during the “previous” regime of Ian Khama, felt even life threatening situations, just because of the intense infighting in the ruling party.
In fact, while Seretse Khama’s son was ripped out of the army, and dumped into the ruling seat, with hope of quelling the fires, his 10 or 20, (as he behaved as a man in control during Festus Mogae era), were anything but peaceful.
In 2010, for the first time, the BDP officially gave birth to a new party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD); which has become the bane of opposition politics today.
While the BDP is caught in the fight to wane itself off
The coalition, made up of the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Peoples Party, the Botswana Congress Party and now suspended BMD, has been stalled progress because of non-ending battles. The umbrella that was the hope of many seems to have broken and in tatters.
The breakup, last year, of the BMD, which gave birth to AP, has for the greater part of the year, been causing upheavals in the UDC. The mishandling of the violent Bobonong congress, saw the former president, Ndaba Gaolathe leading his faction out of BMD, leaving it to the acrimonious Sydney Pilane.
The BMD mess seemed to be the start of the UDC and BNF president, Duma Boko’s waning popularity, for the past week, the once popular human rights lawyers, and Gaborone Bonnington North legislator seems to have found his footing. But the fact that the BMD is on a war path during the two-week suspension, ending this week, suggests that the storm is not over. If anything, the party seems to be ready to see to the end of UDC, as their fight against the new member to the coalition, BCP, has now been taken directly to the BNF, the one party whose activists are known to regroup when under attack, and throw everything back.
So, if there was any hope of mending the umbrella, it’s all but gone up in flames. And with it, the hope of Batswana.
Now with the country still struggling to recover from the economic downturn, and the tense corrupt Khama era, there is no reason for many to trust politicians, across the political divide, to register to vote in next year’s general election.
If anything, the despondency seems to be at all-time high. If pollsters can do a scientific poll today, I bet we will confirm the view that next year, whoever wins power, will grab it with the lowest numbers ever. The poll will show there was little or no motivation to go to the polls, and that voter apathy will be higher.
On newspaper pages, radio call-ins and the active social media, we hear discouraging comments such as “It’s not worth it…”, “Why should I waste my time on these crooks”. Yes, politicians, across the divide are labelled crooks because of the high levels of corruption and white collar criminality. Trust is lost, and so it motivation to register to vote.