Why BDP Is Still In Power After Five Decades?


Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has dominated Botswana politics for over five decades. With the next general elections billed for October 2019, it seems the trend will continue. Why has BDP been the government in power for so long and where does the opposition get it all wrong?

The rational choice model believes that voters do not vote along party lines. They vote for candidates and parties that they believe or think will maximise their interests. When Batswana see how Botswana is, they attribute the independence, democracy, freedom, services, ‘free health’, and ‘free education’ to the BDP and reward it.

In times of declining economic growth the votes for BDP have decreased. In 1989, the BDP obtained 65% of the vote and at that time the economy was favorable, but in 1994 the economic growth had declined and BDP obtained only 54.59% with the opposition gaining increased votes. But in 1999 the economy was favorable and the BDP’s total votes increased to 57% and those of opposition parties declined. The advantage of being in office also benefits BDP as Batswana have a difficult time differentiating between BDP and government resources. BDP uses state media; Radio and Television and platforms such as Kgotla to tell Batswana about the achievements of government and how government will continue working hard, and since Batswana see it as government and thus provider of resources they give it support.

The party identification model postulates that a voter votes for the party they love, identifies with and has a personal or psychological attachment to. The voter and the party have a bond difficult to break. This may be associated with BDP’s stronghold, Central District.

In the sociological approach it is believed that voters’ behavior is influenced by social membership. The voter here learns to associate with a particular party through socialisation. Mostly we find that there are families that subscribe to just one party. Maybe Batswana have been socialised to vote BDP.

Batswana are known to be people who are conservative and resilient to change. So Batswana would rather stick with the devil they know rather than run the risk of opposition who they do not know how they would fair.


Weak Opposition

For the opposition parties to give serious competition to BDP an alliance is needed. But, the attempts are usually futile and some alliances collapse just before general elections. A case in particular is the People’s Progressive Party (PPF). The BNF had joined hands with Botswana Peoples Party (BPP) and the Botswana Peoples Union (BPU). The alliance broke off before the general elections of 1994. Before general elections of 1999, in 1998 BNF had internal conflicts leading to suspensions that ended up in it splinting, some forming Botswana Congress Party (BCP). The BDP won even the strongholds of BNF in the capital city.

Current situation; the opposition under Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) was billed to be the next big thing after its impressive performance in the 2014 general election.

Many were already writing BDP’s obituary at the rumors that BCP would join the UDC. Most political experts were excited at the prospect of a political change.

But, the same opposition disappointed its optimistic followers. Following the bloody Bobonong elective congress which saw BMD emerging with two warring factions with each claiming to be the rightful head of the movement, a new party was born in the form of Alliance for Progressives (AP). Instead of the opposition working together to oust BDP from power now they are busy howling at each other much to the delight of BDP.

With few months left to the general election, it remains to be seen whether the opposition will take advantage of a weak BDP with fights of their own, corruption allegations and ineffective policy implementation. Or BDP will march on mighty and glorious much to the dismay of the opposition, while opposition sympathizers cry foul and lay blame on their own parties’ inability to tolerate each other enough to work together for the good of the nation!


Kebonang Tshegang

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