Gaborone — The 2019 general elections saw the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) march to its 12th successive electoral victory, handing President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi a five-year mandate to lead the country.
Political pundits had anticipated a much closer electoral contest than it turned out to be.
Instead of a hung parliament predicted by various sources prior to the poll, the BDP won 38 seats out of the 57 in the National Assembly, double the figure won by the opposition which collectively garnered 19 seats.
As the BDP increased its representation by a single seat, the opposition won one less seat less than the 20 they had collectively won in 2014.
The official opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) won 15 seats, two less than the 17 they had managed in 2014; the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) managed three seats while Alliance for Progressives (AP) came up with a single seat.
When analysing the results, Dr Kebapetse Lotshwao, a lecturer at the University of Botswana said in an interview that several factors led to the victory of the BDP, among them President Masisi's reforms of the past 18 months, as well as public sentiments about the fallout between President Masisi had with his predecessor Lt Gen. Dr Seretse Khama Ian Khama.
"The BDP had lost ground during the presidency of former President Khama, due to his leadership style. The government had bad relations with civil servants and their trade unions as well as the labour movement as a whole, and state relations with other societal stakeholders such as the media were also very poor," Dr Lotshwao said.
"There were perceived or real instances of corruption and extra judicial killings. The leadership was not consultative as the state issued directives from the Office of the President on the hunting ban, alcohol levy, entertainment trading hours, the introduction of the electronic voting machine (EVM) and other measures that were unpopular."
Dr Lotshwao noted that in the 18 months since taking over from his predecessor, President Masisi introduced reforms that endeared him to the voting public as a reformer and the BDP as a party that was being renewed.
"President Masisi worked on reforming the BDP, fighting corruption, mending relations between the state and labour unions and the media, meeting opposition leaders, engaging stakeholder and community consulations on issues such as the hunting ban, alcohol levy and entertainment trading hours, the EVM, and then making popular reforms on such issues," Dr Lotshwao expressed.
The public criticism of President Masisi by Lt Gen Khama, who denounced his successor on various platforms stating that the country was regressing on issues of governance, led to the voting public expressing a sympathy vote for the BDP, Dr Lotshwao noted.
"Voters rejected this and it explains the large numbers of people who voted for the BDP particularly in the southern parts of the country including Gaborone.
In the Central District, where Lt. Gen Dr Khama is the Kgosikgolo or Paramount Chief of the Bangwato, his influence led to people moving towards the opposition; but in urban centres and areas to the south where Lt Gen Khama has less of an influence, people displayed sympathy with President Masisi," Dr Lotshwao remarked.
As President Khama pioneered the formation of the opposition Botswana Patriotric Front (BPF), which he served as patron, opposition dynamics changed for the first time since the March 1965 pre-independence election, the BDP lost its Serowe strongholds, with all three constituencies there being won by the BPF. Noting that many people did not vote for their traditional parties leading to historically BDP strongholds such as Mahalapye, Palapye and Serowe going to the opposition and opposition strongholds such as Gaborone, Tlokweng, Kgatleng and Kanye voting BDP, Dr Lotshwao said the different parties should learn from the results and act accordingly in order to regain support.
"Just as the 2019 voting patterns were different from those of 2014, the next general election in 2024 could yet be different. It depends on the political parties. The UDC needs to work on restoring its 2014 image. President Masisi on the other hand, who has been given a resounding mandate by Batswana needs to address the many issues facing the people- poverty, unemployment, water scarcity and others, because the support of the swing voters is not guaranteed in future," Dr Lotshwao said.
Source : BOPA