The only way the number of independent candidates known as ‘mekoko’ could be reduced is for political parties to enhance inner party democracy without meddling with party process, political analyst Anthony Morima says.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has so far registered 223 mekoko for council seats and 21 candidates to contest for parliamentary seats.
This number is likely to grow since registration only stops after dissolution of Parliament.
In 2014, 254 candidates had registered as mekoko for council seats and 24 had registered for parliamentary seats.
This week, the IEC spokesperson Osupile Maroba said the number might increase since they have not stopped registration of independent candidates.
“We are ready for elections and as IEC we are prepared for any number of independent candidates. The constitution provides that a person can contest under a party or as an individual. There is nothing that IEC could do for numbers to drop from the previous one. So far we are not experiencing any problems regarding registration of independent candidates,” Maroba said.
However, Morima said the reason why the number of independent candidates keeps on growing shows that there is a problem with inner-party democracy within political parties.
“This means people are not happy with the process that is being done during party primary elections. There is need for the process to be transparent and party leadership does not have to interfere with the process by any means.
Parties should find a way of enhancing inner-party democracy without hurting or cheating anyone. Some members of course, they become angry even if the process was fair because they are in denial. That alone also causes problems,” Morima said.
The political analyst said the other issue that causes the increase of independent candidates is conflict within parties, giving the example of the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) conflicts that have contributed to its members leaving the party.
He said if there is no peace amongst party leadership, some members who take sides in those fights end up being unhappy and hence opt to stand as independent candidates than to be under such leadership.
Morima stressed that body structures above the branch, cell committees and constituency committees also contribute a lot because they always have their preferred candidates whom they influence s/he wins elections.
“The issue is very serious because the structures above the mentioned ones always try to influence people on who to vote during party primary elections or find ways of removing names of a person they do not want on the party’s voters roll. Members get angry at such kind of decisions and end up voting an independent candidate in protest,” he said.
Morima said in politics there will always be independent candidates, but the only worry is when the numbers keep growing while the country has more than three parties.