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BDP poised to win 2019 polls - report

Publishing Date : 14 January, 2019

Author : KETUMILE RAMATITI

Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) is poised to win the upcoming general elections despite a fading public support. If the current rift in the party fails to shake the foundations the party will capitalise on a disjointed opposition to retain power.


The party, according to African Monitor Report, published by United Kingdom based, Business Monitor International, will capitalise from stronger economic growth and fragmented opposition. The report which was released this week focusing on the political and socio-economic atmosphere of African Nations, says the BDP win will be due to a series of interlocking factors which will play out ahead of the elections.


 “The appointment of Masisi in April 2018 seems likely to help restore public confidence in the BDP,” states the report. Former president Ian Khama suffered from weak approval ratings toward the end of his term, which it is believed was a key factor weighing on the popular perception of the BDP.


 “The former president's tendency to avoid the national press and his seeming unwillingness to address the concerns of labour unions after major public sector strikes in 2011 and 2015 fuelled the image of a disengaged leader, especially among the country's large youth population.” By contrast, the report explains that Masisi has already distanced himself from his predecessor, acknowledging the crucial role media plays as a vehicle for politicians' messages.


Moreover, it is said Masisi’s nomination of the youngest minister in Botswana's history – 30-year old Bogolo Joy Kenewendo – at the Ministry of Investment, Trade and Industry, is enough evidence of his commitment to engaging the large youth population. In addition, broad-based economic recovery will bolster public sentiment in the coming months, helping to curb some of the longstanding public discontent over continued economic inequality. “We expect Botswana to maintain its investor-friendly policy trajectory after the upcoming presidential elections in October 2019,” it says.


REPORT DISMISSES UDC

African Monitor report believes that the UDC coalition, BDP's main political rival, will struggle to maintain cohesion. The opposition parties including the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana People's Party (BPP) – traditional members of the UDC – and the BCP, which recently joined managed to agree on presenting Duma Boko, the leader of the BNF party, as their presidential candidate for the 2019 elections.


However, it is by no means guaranteed that the parties will maintain a united front going into the 2019 polls, says the report. “At its first major congress in February last year, the different parties of the UDC were unable to agree on candidates to run in local constituencies, an issue which is yet to be resolved. This is largely owing to the BCP demanding to run as the coalition's candidate in a larger number of constituencies relative to the other members of the coalition and the nomination of Dumelang Saleshando, the BCP's leader, as Boko's presidential running mate,” a hypothesis looking at a number of African nations suggests.


The report strongly believes chances of the UDC winning power sits at dispiriting 15 percent.  In the event of a victory for the main opposition coalition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), it is said centrist policy positions will prevail; “the majority of the coalition is seemingly in favour of the centrist policies proposed by leader Duma Boko”.


BCP COULD SCARE AWAY INVESTORS
 


Should the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) party obtain greater-than-expected influence in the UDC coalition in the run-up to the 2019 election and the opposition coalition wins, the newly elected government could implement reforms focused on protecting national industries and empowering national citizens, which would threaten foreign investment in the diamond sector, says the report paper. “The rapid implementation of such policies would threaten to undercut foreign investment in Botswana,” cautions the paper.


The economy's diamond industry already faces serious competition from China, the leading producer of synthetic diamonds, as well as India, which has positioned itself as the largest diamond beneficiation Centre through a large and low-cost workforce. “It is key for Botswana's long-term development to continue attracting investment in diamond polishing and cutting, which will be linked to the government engaging with labour unions to tie wages to productivity and cut down on red tape,” it recommends. This does not seem likely to happen if the BCP manages to secure a stronger role in the forthcoming government, as its reforms will be mainly focused on increasing wages and employment while reducing competition from foreign firms in the country.


LIFE AFTER ELECTIONS

Post the elections the report maintains that political stability will remain unscathed in Botswana, with a victory by Masisi likely to see the incumbent continue to push ahead with the Doing Business Reforms Roadmap introduced in 2015. “We believe President Masisi will also focus on the re-negotiation of a long-term agreement with De Beers – Botswana's biggest miner – for the use of the country's resources,” predicts the report. The current agreement is due to expire in 2020. Negotiations will be primarily centered on increasing the country's polishing and cutting operations in order to boost employment in high value added segments of the economy, generating employment opportunities and more sustainable economic growth.


Moreover, the governments will likely increase investment in infrastructure development projects under its 11th National Development Plan (NDP11) in order to address the shortcomings in Botswana's transportation network. The lack of extensive road and rail connections, particularly in the western regions, notably increases trade costs and inhibits investment in the landlocked country. The construction of numerous dry ports and ongoing investment in road and rail capabilities will reduce these costs.


While this will ensure the country continues to run moderate fiscal deficits, this is not seen as suggestive of any significant threat to the county's debt sustainability, given the relatively modest size of the country's overall debt burden. “We expect public debt to reach just 14.9% of GDP by the end of 2018 – a relatively low level by regional standards – which will leave plenty of scope for further borrowing, both domestically and from foreign creditors, to finance the execution of the NDP11 until its end in 2023,” it is said.


A business-friendly reform agenda will continue to support growth in manufacturing and retail trade in Botswana, which will ensure stronger long-term economic growth and keep the country as one of the most attractive investment destinations in Sub-Saharan Africa.

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