Botswana: Do Away With First Past the Post - Politicians

11 September 2019

As the date for the much anticipated general elections is nearing (October 23), politicians across the political spectrum are having various opinions on how the country's electoral process can be reviewed to enhance our democracy. Currently some are of the view that the first past the post (FPTP) system is out dated and should be replaced by proportional representation (PRP).

Others are of the view that hybrid system which is a combination of the two systems should be introduced. Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) parliamentary candidate for Francistown South constituency, Tiroyaone Ntsima is of the view that FPTP which is currently being used to determine the victories party does not represent the marginalized groups such as the disabled, minority groups, women and the youth. He argued that if PRP is introduced such groups will be catered for when allocating parliamentary seats for various parties after the general elections.

Ntsima reasoned that for the change to be implemented, first there should be a constitutional frame work that will allow such changes. "The current electoral process is disadvantaging some minority groups such as Basarwa as they normally do not have representation in parliament and their daily struggles are not addressed. But if we introduce PRP minority tribes such as Basarwa will be well represented in the national assembly and their challenges will be addressed accordingly," Ntsima opined. He went on to say that since gaining independence, Botswana has been using FPTP and many have seen its negatives as it disadvantages certain groups in the society who are also taking part in the electoral process.

Another politician, Alliance for Progressives (AP) council candidate for Ikageleng ward in Francistown South constituency, Thapelo Slecks Mosenya posits that FPTP is undemocratic and should be scraped off. "The system should be replaced by PRP which is used by progressive democracies like South Africa," Mosenya buttressed. He held that first past the post is undemocratic as it does not reflect the true desire of electorates. The youthful Mosenya added that in 2104 the Botswana Democratic Party could have lost power if proportional representation was implemented as the party garnered a low popular vote (less than 50 per cent) compared to opposition parties combined votes.

BDP Francistown regional chairman, Baemedi Medupi explained that for such a change to be implemented, first there should be a referendum and thorough consultation with the nation. He mentioned that personally he does not have a problem with proportional representation because it is inclusive of all members of the society.

Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), Publicity and Information Secretary, Justice Motlhabani opined that his party supports proportional representation adding that FPTP is flawed and out-dated. "We are currently ruled by a minority party because in the 2014 general elections, BDP garnered a low popular vote compared to opposition parties' votes combined. This means that the adage that majority rules is currently not applicable in the current scenario," he pointed out. Motlhabani said however his party will have to consult members on which model to adopt adding that even using the hybrid system will be good.

Political analyst, Ndulamo Anthony Morima said the issue is an old debate and the argument has always been FPTP system does not represent the various sectors of the society. He continued: "Currently some of the tribes are not represented in the national assembly which is unfair. Proportional representation has more advantages than the former because even small parties end up having representation in parliament which will enhance our democracy," Morima observed. According to Morima, at least a compromise could be reached by implementing the hybrid electoral process which is a combination of the two.

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