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Knowing who they are?

Sandy Grant
Its extraordinarily hard to write a column when the results of the election the one and only topic of interest this week are yet to be known.

That said, it does seem to me that there are questions about it which can be asked, even before the results are known. For instance, given the eventual widespread interest generated by the election, it seems surprising, looking back, that the numbers of those who registered to vote were not very much higher.

How can that be explained?  Also, it is my impression listening to the Council results that the number of spoilt votes was worryingly high. Why? Was it in some way a reflection on the design of the ballot paper? Or could it have been that people assumed that all they had to do was to make a mark against the party or candidate of their choice?  I’m not sure that I have ever understood why a cross should be required instead of a tick or, indeed, why both should not be regarded as acceptable? 

For a ballot paper to be rejected because someone ticked instead of crossed does seem harsh, even bizarre. But maybe one or other of our newspapers would give examples of ballot papers that were deemed to be spoilt.

Past reporting of elections has convinced me that many, perhaps all, predictions of the probable results can be assumed to be wrong. In so many cases, the suggestion that a constituency contest was likely to be desperately tight was followed by a landslide victory for one over the other.

This time around, it was obvious that constituency by constituency newspaper reports were little more than thumb suck comments with those who contributed them having little idea of the factors that were likely to prove decisive.

 Post election analysis will prove of exceptional interest because there are bound to be specific factors which helped to explain the different results. The appeal of individual candidates may be one explanation, their track record could be another, or the extent to which they campaigned and/or are well or little known. But then some results will have occurred as a result of tactical blunders by the parties.  As it has admitted, the fall-out that resulted from the BDP’s  bulela ditswe election process was particularly damaging, whilst its handling of the dispute in Tlokweng seems to have cooked its goose there.

Straightforward mistakes or even outright blunders would, however, have been committed by all three parties. None of the BDP’s electoral failings, for instance, came near to approaching the unbelievable folly of the

two opposition parties who were unwilling to recognise that whilst they could together defeat the BDP, their chances of doing so as separate political entities were probably remote.

The blame for this woefully wrong assessment appears to have been popularly attributed to the BCP. Still on-going Council election results suggest that the electorate may have punished it for its arrogance  - but only the final figures will or will not bear out that impression.

If, in addition, those final results confirm that together the UDC and BCP would have defeated the BDP, analysts could wonder not only about the blunder of the century but also about the long term damage that the party may have inflicted on itself?

It has long surprised me that as part of its pre-election coverage, the commercial newspapers have completely ignored the personal backgrounds of the major candidates, their age and their education and career attainments.

For some reason, education, in particular, is regarded as irrelevant. This is a great pity – I. for one, would have wanted to know what kinds of candidates were being fielded by the parties. Was there, this time around, a significant difference between them with one or the other fielding more degree holders than the others? 

Or was there no significant difference which might distinguish them? 

But again, this disinterest in the personal backgrounds of those elected to Parliament means that we have no way of knowing if there has been a marked change in the make up of the members of the different Parliaments.

I would assume, for instance, that the majority of members of the first five Parliaments were cattle farmers, whereas Wednesday’s Parliament is likely to include only few. But again, I believe that we should have basic information about the profile of members of Parliament instead of knowing almost nothing about them.

Is the average age dipping or is it on the rise? Is the educational graph steadily rising or is about to dip? Have there been any MPs who were career professionals? And then there is the gender question - one element of the country’s democratic face which does achieve attention –will there be significantly more women MPs and Councillors or will the increase remain only modest?  But when it is known who will be taking their seats in Parliament may we please be told something about them, other than the fact that they have won!


Etcetera II



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