The fragmentation of opposition parties in Botswana has been one of the major reasons that have prolonged Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) rule.
History shows that failure by major opposition parties to reach a common ground has always given the ruling party an upper hand. It is no surprise that since 1965 the BDP has won every single election at times with no significant challenge.
The 2014 general elections, which was the party’s biggest electoral test to date proved that united, the opposition parties are capable of ousting the ruling party from power. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) a coalition of three political parties, the Botswana National Front (BNF), Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) and Botswana Peoples Party (BPP), proved that united the opposition has a better shot at the state power. Botswana Congress Party (BCP), another major player in Botswana politics, was not part of the coalition and its absence resulted in its heaviest defeat to date.
The 2014 results clearly show that had the two parties cooperated, the ruling BDP would have easily lost the general elections for the first time since independence. It came as no surprise that for the first time since 1965, the party failed to get more than 50% in popular vote. The writing is on the wall. Batswana want all the opposition parties to unite and take on the ruling party in 2019.
Talk that BCP is willing to become part of, or work with the UDC, is a welcome development. The truth is that BCP and UDC policies and approach to issues are not far apart. At its recent elective congress, the BCP resolved to engage the UDC to the chagrin of some the former’s members. In frustrationm some of these members recently joined the BDP, while others are still undecided on their next political home. It is however comforting that the newly elected BCP leadership appears to be committed to working with UDC.
The decision by the BCP not to contest Boswelatlou Ward by-election in Lobatse is another sign by the party that it is ready to cooperate with UDC. Over the weekend, BCP/UDC leadership held joint rallies in the ward. The decision by the parties under the UDC not to welcome BCP defectors is not only a clear sign of commitment to opposition unity, but of maturity by the UDC leadership in particular, its president Duma Boko.
We urge the two parties to further demonstrate commitment to the spirit of opposition cooperation by signing by-election Memorandum of Understanding before the end of the year and entering into negotiations over the ‘readmission’ of BCP into UDC as soon as possible. We hope that this flirtation between the two parties leads to something much bigger – marriage and its ultimate consummation . In the best interest of Batswana, let’s have a viable alternative to BDP.
“We anticipate final discussions with the BCP to take place which might result in the UDC becoming bigger and better.”
– Duma Boko