By-elections likely to attract low turn-out

People queuing to vote
People queuing to vote

Political analyst, Lesole Machacha says there is a high possibility that the 11 by-elections to be held over the weekend might have a low turn-out as compared to other previous by-elections.

According to the analyst, this is so because people are already in a festive mood. The vacant council seat wards are Nkange North (Nkange constituency), Tamasane (Mmadinare constituency), Tumasera-Seleka (Sefhare-Ramokgonami constituency), Boseja South (Mochudi East constituency), Lentsweletau West (Lentsweletau-Mmopane constituency), Metsimotlhabe (Gabane-Mmankgodi constituency), Motokwe-Tsetseng (Takatokwane constituency), Ga-Molopo (Goodhope-Mabule constituency), Lorolwane (Mmathethe-Molapowabojang constituency) and Moshupa East (Moshupa-Manyana constituency). Normally, the council seat vacancy should be filled within three months if one dies or resigns but this was not the case this time around since there was a State of Public Emergency and lockdowns.

“Historically, our by-elections have not been attracting large numbers of people like it is the case with general elections. This time around the situation might be bad due to a number of reasons: Political parties did not have enough time to campaign, some held primary elections within a short space and some of the members were not happy and some people are still having fear of the COVID-19 pandemic. Again, some voters are already busy going home while some are touring the country. Some companies are paying people this week and closing at the same time, so chances of youth going to polling stations to vote are slim,” Machacha said.

However, Machacha said apart from the low turn-out that is likely to be there, he believes that the elections could still be held effectively while health protocols are observed and voters assisted quickly so that they do not queue for long. In addition, he explained that the turn-out might be 40 to 50% of the total number of people who had registered in the 2019 general election in each of these wards. He said in this time of COVID-19, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) should improve its services to ensure that their clients are assisted quickly and some have to make sure that health protocols are taken into consideration.

He stated: “It is very important that voters sanitises from the entrance of the polling stations and even before they cast their votes. IEC officials should talk to party representatives so that their voters do not crowd by the gates. We cannot ignore the fact that cases of COVID-19 are increasing again and the situation does not look good for the country. All leaders must join hands to help the government against the spread of the virus and celebrations must not be allowed as they contribute to people crowding and at the end, they forget to put on masks.” He further added that there is a possibility that elderly people may go and vote while young people might become busy with their personal things and forget to vote.

For his part, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) spokesperson Kagelelo Kentse said there has been a lot of disturbances to their campaigns due to the unpredictable COVID-19 but insisted the BDP is confident of a win especially in the seven seats it had in 2019. "I do hope that our party might snatch some wards that were held by the opposition. As the ruling party, we have an obligation to lead by example, therefore, we could not be seen to be crowding people through rallies while the cases for COVID-19 are increasing.

But we have been encouraging our members to campaign while observing health protocols and our political education committee is helping together with the office of the secretariat that the party retains some wards it had won in 2019 general elections.” He said they are using social media platforms for some of their campaigns also to ask the members to go and vote. However, the chairperson of opposition joint by-election committee, Phenyo Butale said they are more than ready and they are optimistic that they will win some wards even some that were won by the BDP in the 2019 general election. “Some people are unhappy that the BDP has been promising them developments but it had failed to deliver. Nothing has stopped our campaigns and rallies because we adhere to health protocols.

What is very important is for the party to talk to its members and educate them on COVID-19 and how they should behave themselves. Some people are promising us votes while others have even helped us to locate some people who are on the voters roll and also assist with their numbers. We hope the electorate have heard us. Some countries have continued voting during COVID-19 and it is time we see how we could keep on doing some things while COVID-19 is still there,” he said.

Editor's Comment
Keep your mask close

Wearing of masks behind closed doors has been mandatory following the government’s August decision that the public was freed from masking in outdoor spaces.According to a press statement from the ministry, all other remaining COVID-19 protocols such as social distancing in schools and requirements for vaccination or PCR tests at ports of entry have also been relaxed.Statistics still show that hundreds still die daily due to the pandemic around...

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