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Dominance and accusations in the serious business of democracy!

THABO MASALILA
The BDP has riveted what otherwise was a secure place as a dominant party.

Victory at the 12th general elections will see the party extend its uninterrupted right to rule to almost six decades. The BDP’s victory cements Botswana’s political landscape as that of a one-party dominant political system achieved through democratic means – a feat achieved by only a few political parties.

A dominant part system is where one party dominates over a prolonged period in a democratic system where regular elections involving multiple parties are held.

Southern Africa is synonymous with dominant party systems, these almost ostensibly masquerading as one party states dominated by the liberation and independence waves of the 1960.

The rise of most of Southern Africa’s parties which have attained dominance has been preceded by the circumstances leading to independence or liberation. Consequently, the involvement of these parties in pre-independence is responsible largely for their victories in subsequent elections.

One-party dominance is considered an anomaly and a deviation from the norm. Dominant parties are those that earn the right to rule by outdistancing opponents in several consecutive elections on the scale of number of decades continuously. Dominant parties are not necessarily popular parties, but those that enjoy the plurality of seats.

By so winning these elections, the BDP continues to be perched on the same pedestal as the Indian National Congress (INC), the Mifleget Poalei Eretz Yisrael in Israel, Christian Democratic Party in Italy and the Social Democratic Party in Sweden.

The INC won outright majority in seven elections and led a coalition in three other elections and in government for more than 54 years. INC tasted defeat in 2014 and did not fare well in the 2019 elections.

Common in the rise to power of dominant parties is unusual circumstances prior to ascending to power.

Seeking societal resolutions to deep divisions places such parties at the forefront in founding elections. A political party that comes to power in transition from a liberation struggle or pursuit for independence has an advantage over its rivals because voters will remember its role in extricating the nation from the pre-independence era.

In the 11 subsequent elections, the BDP went to elections in the form of a continuum. It is common cause that there has been a fall out between predecessor Ian Khama and successor President Masisi.

The posture of the BDP leading to the 2019 elections was that of an arrivalist – a new party, very much like a snake keen to shed its moult. As if to herald a second coming, the BDP could pass as having declared the reign of Khama as 10 years of slavery.

The constant dissociation from Khama during the build up to the 2019 elections saw the BDP and its leader President Masisi enjoy the benefit of being perceived as saviours – a feat difficult to defeat.

With the nation awaiting inauguration, there seems to be a muted acceptance of the election results from the opposition, throwing the credibility of these elections into question.

The UDC was the first to highlight what it says amounts to a

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basket of irregularities, a claim further augmented by Hon Puis Mokgware of AP.

Hon Biggie Butale of BPF has also joined the bandwagon to query the electoral outcome. Chief amongst the indicators of electoral fraud from the BPF are the astounding margins that the BDP won by especially in the south. Butale goes further to suggest a regionalised vote aimed at securing President Mokgweetsi Masisi’s presidency.

Government needs to look no further than itself in these myriad of rigged elections. First to sound alarm was henchman Peter Magosi.

Without invitation Magosi was first to provide unsolicited advice on the possibility of rigging. Government is the one that induced the self-inflicted wounds that are causing UDC to claim election malfeasance.

The IEC should equally take some blame for the shortfalls and irregularities which threaten the acceptance of the outcome.

The primary role of the IEC is to conduct and supervise elections. The IEC is manned by Commissioners who give instruction to the Secretary of the Commission. In these elections one would not have been mistaken in assuming Osupile Maroba was the Secretary of the IEC instead of Keireng Auntie Zuze.

Public confidence in elections matters as it goes to the integrity of the electoral process. That public confidence also increases the likelihood of acceptance of the results, with winners magnanimous in victory and losers gracious in defeat.

A thorough look at our electoral processes exposes weaknesses in the broader political context; and a flawed constitutional and legal framework to ensure equitable access by all players.

Elections are a conflict resolution mechanism - aimed at solving political contestation. When mismanaged, elections can be a source of conflict. This past Wednesday an unsavoury event occurred with Hon Noah Salakae taking exception to the High Court on allegations of irregularities surrounding the handling of ballot papers.

Salakae lost Ghanzi North to John Thiite.

The Ghanzi North incident, adds to the mystique of a poll that was the most watched in the history of Botswana’s elections.

Southern African liberation movements paid the most attention to these elections, wondering if a repeat of the DRC elections was remotely possible in Botswana.

Felix Tshisekedi’s Union for Democracy and Social Progress (UDSP) defeated Emmanuel Shadary of the People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy (PPRD) much to the annoyance of opposition leader Martin Fayulu, who felt elections were rigged in favour of Tshisekedi.

Should the UDC go to court, as it is threatening to do, it stands to expose the inefficiencies in the legal framework governing elections. Up to now, there isn’t an elections tribunal to deal with all matters electoral. Complaints are routed through the courts with intent to settle in three months.

Our politics are shaping up to be cyclical. The opposition tends to do well at elections held midterm to a presidency. These past elections consolidate one thing – only the BDP will determine when it is to pull the curtain on its rulership. A heartfelt congratulations to all political players in the heartbeat of our democracy!



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