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Home » Columns » 2018, When The Royal Blue Train Gathers Speed

2018, When The Royal Blue Train Gathers Speed

Publishing Date : 08 January, 2018

KESITEGILE GOBOTSWANG (PHD)
BCP DEPUTY LEADER



As the date for the 2019 general election is fast approaching we expect Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) to consolidate the gains from 2017 and accelerate its preparedness for the historic election. 

The nation will be waiting in anticipation for a change of government after more than half a century of a single party rule. The UDC political calendar will be packed.  It will require all the contracting parties to keep their eye on the ball if we are to usher in the long awaited regime change.  We shall kick off the 2018 program with a historic UDC Congress to be help between 23rd and 24th February 2019.


Historic precisely because it will be the first Congress since Botswana Congress Party (BCP) became part of the umbrella family. Detractors can underestimate the new political arrangement at their own peril.   Henceforth UDC will present a formidable challenge to state power to usher in a new dispensation to deliver jobs, fight corruption, and stop official theft.


The Congress will also be historic because it will adopt a new UDC constitution grounded on the concept of equity and fairness.  The constitution shall be a guiding political tool more than a purely legal document.  Once adopted it will not just be a piece of paper that can be trampled upon willy-nilly for political expediency.  Ignoring the constitution in decision making is tantamount to inviting the law of the jungle.


A quick read of the draft document show that the drafters intended to make it simple and not cumbersome. This is because UDC relies on contracting parties to follow constitutions of respective parties in conducting the day to day running of political organizations.


In respect of the constitution robust debates are expected around the question relating to the composition and election of the National Executive Committee (NEC). In particular the issue of two Vice Presidents and Presidential powers are likely to attract intense debate.  The formula for determining the number of delegates per contracting party is also likely to be debated. A possible variation may arise between those who would argue for equality while others prefer an equitable approach.  


When UDC was ceased with the case of Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) the NEC in general and the UDC President in particular were accused of inaction when they were trying to stick to existing guiding principles. The question of the powers of UDC is an issue that will not escape the attention of the Congress; when and how to intervene in internal party matters requires constitutional clarity.


One of the critical documents to be adopted at the UDC Congress will be the policy framework. Fortunately it is a paper that did not have any serious disagreements during the negotiations. Once adopted extensive consultations with all stake holders will then follow across the length and breadth of Botswana before a final policy blue print is published. These will include but not limited to Small to Medium Business, subsistence and commercial farmers, workers, non-state actors, and students.  


More importantly the UDC Congress will certainly be re-union of old and new comrades. It will be an opportunity for many to reminiscence about the past. The mood is likely to be jubilant but serious because of the issues tabled for discussions.
In readiness for the 2019 general election and upon conclusion of ward allocations contracting parties will be expected to begin identifying quality candidates through respective party processes such as primary elections. 


As usual primary elections will present challenges as disgruntled candidates turn independents or migrate to other parties.  It will not be a one-way traffic since other parties are likely to lose members who reject results because they feel cheated. A point of equilibrium would be reached leaving all political parties without any significant net gains.


Under the revised Electoral Act there will be one voter registration exercise. Apparently restricted voter registration is meant to exclude many potential voters especially youth who are overwhelmingly anti-status quo.  Voter registration will take place between September 3rd and November 11 2018. For reasons that are unclear there will be no supplementary and continuous voter registration. Political parties will be working under extreme pressure to ensure that voter registration campaigns are successful if they are to have impact in 2019.


Related to elections Botswana Congress Party (BCP) court challenge of some aspects of the amended Electoral Act and the likelihood of other court cases occasioned by exclusion of citizens who will only be eligible to register and vote after the one-off voter registration could create uncertainties and confusion in 2018. In particular the BCP case focuses on the introduction of Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs), termination of continuous and supplementary registration.


Of immediate pre-occupation when we re-open is the anticipated Moshupa bye election caused by the elevation of the sitting Member of Parliament to the position of State President of the Republic of Botswana.  Moshupa bye election presents both a challenge and opportunity for the UDC. The results may be interpreted as a good predictor of the possible outcome of the 2019 general election. Any party that loses badly may find it hard to convince the ordinary voter why they think they can win the 2019 general election.


In the 2014 general elections Moshupa was a typical case of opposition vote splitting. The combined vote of BCP and UDC gave the constituency to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) with a small margin of 581. The arrival of BCP in the umbrella family may prove to be too potent for the incumbent party.  With an electable candidate and hard work the constituency may go either way.

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