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A walk into unchartered waters!

THABO MASALILA
Botswana ticks another milestone in its 53 years of independence, giving credit to the economic, political, legal and institutional frameworks that have delivered lasting peace.

The journey has been smooth. A month ago President Mokgweetsi Masisi dissolved Parliament. A month from now, the outcome of 2019 elections will be known.

Political parties are still coming to grips with this hotlycontested campaign. Somewhere between the cut and thrust of politics, President Masisi and Hon Duma Boko must now turn their minds to what it will take to win the next general elections.

In the life of politicians, election years are always marked with distinct and different characteristics. Yet, each election has one thing in common – there comes a point when time becomes a politician’s chief opponent. October 23 will arrive in the blink of an eye and the major players all have much to do.

The ruling BDP has the upper hand. There is, of course, a distinct structural advantage in being able to both set the frame of debate and use the machinery of government to drive and deliver their point of view. After a disastrous manifesto showing, the BDP has found a new lease of life in projecting some form a re-birth through President Masisi.

The reality is that the BDP is out of its depth. Even in its attempt at rejuvenation, it cannot master the brilliance of decisive policy resonance which alone should be sufficient to retain the party in power. Access to the Kgotla, a platform outreach for opponent Boko, remains the fall back tool at the disposal of the BDP to have a second go at campaigning.

Should the BDP retain power it will be on account of President Masisi alone. A narrative of self-sacrifice to save the country has gained traction. The harm that could have befallen this country has not been well articulated though. An anti-Khama brigade is also swinging towards the BDP reducing these elections to a Masisi-Khama duel, much to the detriment of sound policy proposition.

By and large, ruling governments defeat themselves. Political parties are elected to do a job and once that job is done, they are required to return to the electorate to articulate just what job they are going to do next. In failing to clearly craft what it has in mind, the BDP relies on President Masisi alone to showcase renewed energy and optimism.

The resignation of Hon Tshekedi Khama from the BDP adds to the continuing duel, and settles the confusion in Serowe West. Despite the trumpeting by social media activists screaming Tshekedi’s commitment, the party hardly distinguished itself as one that regarded his membership as crucial.

The blatant ignorance of the dynamics in the Central Region unquestionably played a part in failing to appreciate the destabilisation that would result with Tshekedi’s departure.

September is the last bend before the home stretch. October will be a test. Speculation is still mounting with the main contenders all calling a victory. Campaign Manager Tebelelo Seretse says the BDP will win 50 seats. Behind the scenes BDP protagonists project a winning of anything between 41 and 43 seats.

The BDP is miles ahead in terms of effective campaign tools for the last month. The show of force when nominating Presidential Candidate is an indication of organisational strength and experience.

The expansive visibility tour is another scalp. CAVA regalia fills the vast terrain of this country. This preparedness will translate to the readiness of polling agents and the general support to be extended on the day of the polls.

The blundering in affairs of the Central Region will see the opposition gain further ground from the BDP. However, that does not simply mean Boko has to run

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out the clock. That alone won’t suffice. Boko will need to convince Batswana beyond the UDC manifesto promises why his party should be entrusted with power.

There is no denying that the UDC runs on a platform that has excited voters in contrast to the dark and tired manifesto of the BDP. But over time the UDC has earned a new wave of resistance. Whether a design of propaganda or not, the anti-Khama sentiment seems to be a detractor for the middle class.

To what extent this will be instrumental remains unknown. The key question must be the number of votes that Khama will bring to the UDC versus those that they will lose by being associated with him.

The UDC claims an assured win of anything between 34 and 37 seats. Across the world, demographic change has resulted in internal tensions and conflict even when economies are growing and living standards rising. Urbanisation has been revolutionary in cultural and social change, driving many out of extreme poverty. Urbanisation has also been a driving force, lifting peasants into a new political consciousness.

The propensity to want more is directly proportional to the growth of material comfort. But the opposite happens as societies modernise. People acquire the educational background and security to turn their attentions to political and social desires.

Governing policies matter more to people in modernising economies, urban areas than in the rural setting. City dwellers tend to be more politicised than peasants, and demand a lot more from their leadership.

The popularity of the ruling BDP has been on a steady decline since the first elections. With exception of a 2% upward spike in 2009, electoral outcomes have mirrored two simple factors. The BDP has traditionally struggled with first time registrations and certainly losing its voters from previous elections. Will another downwards spiral from 46.7% finally hand power to the opposition?

October will be the final test of party infrastructure and of course national architecture to cope under duress? The country currently experiences a debate overload from RB1 and private stations. The debates expose disparity in comprehension of party programmes. The worst performances have come from Hon Winter Mmolotsi, who has taken to mudslinging in contrast to Ndaba Gaolathe’s issue based campaign, and from VP Slumber Tsogwane. 

AP and BPF will also have a small but indelible mark on the political landscape the outcome of which might lead the country to unchartered waters. In the past, it was always a given that the BDP would emerge victorious, even at the toughest of times in 2014. It is prudent to continue to work for the peace that defines this country.

As the clock ticks closer to the day, society should think of functionality beyond an outright winner. In established and emerging democracies alike, ruling and opposition parties have formed coalitions and with successful programs for government. In other cases, governments of national unity have helped usher countries through political crises and secure peace.

Even when they are well-intentioned, coalitions inherently pose a number of challenges. Member parties attempt to maintain a distinct party identity while respecting their obligations to coalition partners and accomplishments to members and the general public. Owing to notable fraternising, it is generally assumed that if push comes to shove, the BDP will look to AP for a coalition. The marriage of convenience between UDC and BPF also shapes belief that this could be one possible post-election coalition.

Ever thought of a BDP-UDC coalition?

This election may just be a test of our peace architecture and infrastructure!



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