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AP diffuses the left-right politics amid a muddied trajectory

Publishing Date : 26 September, 2017

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Ndaba Gaolathe and his followers have announced that they will officially launch a new political party, Alliance for Progressives (AP) in October this year. This effectively brings a third player to the 2019 general election, diffusing the right-left politics.

AP actually vanquishes the ‘No shades of grey’ theory but the journey to the formation of the new party has been punctuated by pimples pointing in the direction of failed leadership. The timing of the announcement could not be more intriguing since it came a day after the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) NEC delivered what has been broadly termed as “verdict” that was aimed at easing the impasse between warring Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) factions.

The two factions were led by Gaolathe and Sidney Pilane. The UDC was asked to mediate following disagreements that gained momentum following the admission of Pilane back into the BMD and a violent congress in Bobonong that could not deliver an ‘acceptable’ set of leaders. It must be noted that the two groups have not enjoyed each other’s company since their Gantsi congress which ushered in Gaolathe as President where the majority of other positions were won by those perceived to be on the opposing camp. The UDC was expected to help the two factions find one another hence a proposed power sharing leading to a congress re-run. The UDC verdict has not found favour with the Gaolathe camp hence the new party.

We assume that the said power sharing would have seen Gaolathe and Pilane find one another and one of them submitting to the other as a leader. We also speculate that it would have meant that some of those elected at the two separate venues into BMD positions per faction were to lose their positions to accommodate one structure that would prepare for a congress. The exchanges between the two groups have been very toxic, the polarity was on another level, ordinarily one would not expect the two to share a table and talk. But like they always say, in politics there are no permanent enemies, Gaolathe and Pilane had the chance to rise to the occasion as leaders and draw their supporters to the table and save the original BMD. But it is water under the bridge, accepted.  

In practice we have seen a number of sworn enemies put aside their interests and differences to work out peace deals and shared power arrangements, albeit it is usually a temporary bait. This was probably the expectation with the proposed BMD power sharing. The train has already passed the station, accepted. An assessment and analysis of the language used during the 2014 general elections campaign, dims any slight suggestion of UDC and BNF leader, Duma Boko and BCP president, Dumelang Saleshando working together. But today they have found each other and the other has decided to be humble and submit to the other. Maybe as they say, time heals and it does so thoroughly. Maybe Pilane and Gaolathe’s wounds are still new.

Now that a new party has been formed, it is a reality that Batswana will have to deal with. It is also evident that there is very slim chance of the AP working with the UDC. The issue of constituencies is a thorny one, the most practical approach to negotiation, if it were to happen, would be for AP to get a share from the 14 constituencies already allocated to the BMD of the UDC. But the condition from AP is that there is no way they would engage a UDC that has Pilane and his team. It is a dead end.

In any case the coming in of a possible third party ahead of the 2019 general election broadens or offers options to voters. They will not be faced with a 50/50 situation on Election Day. Our deduction is that in the case of Botswana it is very likely that this third party will decide who wins outright power. It will most likely play the role of the BCP in 2014 hence the BDP and the UDC have a big task of making sure they retain and recruit more members. This is because from which ever direction the AP will draw between 5% and 8% of votes, victory goes the opposite direction. The BDP is not sparred in this case, but its current status cushions it better.

We have to admit that having only two parties to pick from is also a challenge because it is impossible for one party to tackle all the interests of a particular segment of voters. Voters are individuals who have varied interests and will most likely disagree with one or more points a political party is campaigning for. Maybe AP will efficiently fill in this space. We are of the view that more often than not a two party system ignores alternative voices. We were expecting a flurry of independent candidates in 2019, probably the birth of the AP will minimize those. Two-party systems that want to stay united usually ignore alternative options, especially radical ones.

In a multi-party system, debate and diverse views are encouraged because coalitions are formed by stronger and weaker parties in order to achieve dominance. Third parties, on the other hand, are often ignored in two-party systems because of the winner-take-all voting mechanism where a losing candidate loses relevance even if they had a significant following. The new party has entered the den, the BDP and UDC are expected to up the wager. The events that led us here need to be looked at especially by politicians. There are a lot of take home notes on leadership.



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