A win for Botswana?
With an 11th straight victory for the Botswana Democratic Party’s (BDP), gaining 37 out of 57 elected seats (64.9%), President Ian Khama was sworn in for a second term.
Recently 824 073 eligible voters registered to vote in the country, which is regarded as one of Africa’s strongest democracies. The election was hailed as one of the most competitive elections for Botswana, this according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
In a statement made on 26 October, High Court Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo said that Khama “has been reelected as the president of the republic after his political party, the Botswana Democratic Party, garnered at least 34 of the 57 seats”. (The tally was still ongoing when this statement was released.)
However, what made this election, held on 24 October, such a pivotal one in the history of Botswana was that it was the first time that the BDP, in power since 1966, would battle it out with a party that had split away from it, the Botswana Movement for Democracy – which contested the elections as part of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which consists of a federation of parties.
This year, citizens had three political parties to choose from: the ruling BDP, Botswana Congress Party ( BCP) – claimed to be the fastest-growing party in the country – and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Khama’s win wasn’t as effortless as he would have liked, however. Amid rumours of corruption in the ruling party, with government officials being accused in particular – such as damning evidence of corrupt activities against the director of intelligence and security Isaac Kgosi – the BDP managed to pull off a win. In a recent BDP rally before the election, the president even went so far as to claim that the rumours of corruption were fabricated by the media and were the “fertile imagination of the opposition and their allies in the private media”, in order to garner and retain support. It is interesting to note that the opposition parties were hardly mentioned in the state media. Unfortunately, while private media reported coverage of all parties, those in the most rural areas of Botswana were only able to receive state media and the propaganda aired across its networks. What’s more, private newspapers have been inundated with petty legal cases and there have even been incidences of journalists travel documents being withdrawn. Not corrupt? Questionable.
One also has to question where the funding came for the BDP’s campaign drive. In Botswana there is no political party funding law – with sources of the funding shrouded in secrecy. The BDP had 57 branded vehicles for its campaign – with the estimated costs running into millions of Pula. That said, rather than being an extremely volatile and competitive election process, it was smoother and more peaceful than expected, much to the surprise of the ruling party.
Says US Secretary of State John Kerry: “I congratulate the people of Botswana on their successful parliamentary elections. International observers have declared the election free, fair and transparent. I commend all Batswana who turned out in overwhelming numbers to participate in your 11th parliamentary election since independence in 1966.”
While some may claim that Botswana is doing something right in terms of its democratic process, the people of Botswana may have something else to say entirely.
President Ian Khama