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BDP reform talk excite opposition

BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) Central Committee has mandated its Sub-Committee responsible for Political Education to explore areas for possible political and electoral reforms in a bid to save the party from losing power in 2019.


News of this move are said to have excited some in the opposition especially the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), especially those opposed to cooperation with the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). They see them as a lifeline should the BCP fail to reach an agreement on the issue of the model. Some in the UDC are also strong advocates of political party funding.


BDP Secretary General, Botsalo Ntuane told a press briefing recently that following the dismal performance at the last general elections, the party saw it fit to look into certain areas that could be explored to ensure that the party retains power in 2019.


Ntuane hinted that for the first time in history, the BDP has opened up to the possibility of introducing political party funding, a subject that has been a ‘taboo’ within the party. With the BDP Central Committee having given the Political Education Sub-Committee the go ahead to look into the matter, there is hope that finally all parties will be funded for campaigns in the next general elections.


Political party funding has attracted a number of credible proponents in the last few years that are of the view that, a matured democracy like that of Botswana should have by now embraced such an initiative. Among them is former President Sir Quett Ketumile Masire who said that failure to do so may result in political parties sourcing funds from undesirable organisations.


Despite retaining power for the eleventh time since independence, BDP emerged from last year’s general elections badly bruised.  BDP registered its lowest popular vote since independence, attracting a paltry 46.7 percent of votes, escaping defeat in 12 constituencies, thanks to opposition parties’ vote splitting.  


Last year’s general elections also saw the party losing its traditional strongholds like Molepolole and Goodhope-Mabule. BDP lost both Molepolole constituencies to the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC). The aftermath of the 2014 general elections also saw, UDC taking control of four councils; Gaborone City Council, Jwaneng Town Council, Kgatleng District Council and South East District Council.  


With Botswana Congress Party (BCP) now warming up to the idea of joining UDC, the ruling party has all the right reasons to be worried. A combined opposition vote would give them a popular vote of over 50 percent and a grip on 12 constituencies they lost through split votes. But the BCP may entertain reforms especially the proportional representation because under such a format they stand a chance of owning a reasonable corner in politics outside the UDC should the talks fail.


The BDP PEC has also been tasked with studying the current electoral system with the view of introducing new reforms. Ntuane has advocated for introduction of hybrid electoral system which encompasses both First Past the Post and Proportional Representation.


Furthermore, the committee has been given a mandate to engage party activists and civil society in the proposed reforms by the party. The PEC would then have to submit the recommendations to the party central committee to approve them for presentation in parliament. ”The PEC will also engage the experts to offer their opinion on the matter,” said Ntuane.     


With BDP with the majority of seats in parliament, and if such recommendations from the PEC are approved by the central committee the reforms will be implemented before the 2019 general elections.


However, the former Gaborone West South (now Gaborone Bonnington South) MP pointed out that it would not be the first time that the party embarked on such a mission. In 1995 following another impressive performance by opposition which threatened the party’s grip on power, BDP went on to introduce some electoral reforms ahead of the 1999 general elections.


The 1995 electoral reforms where as a result of a special congress held at Sebele in Gaborone where a number of key resolutions where adopted. Key among those resolutions were; introduction of 10 year limit for presidential tenure in office, reduction of voting age from 21 to 18 years and establishment of an Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).


BDP is also preparing for life without President Ian Khama who is expected to leave office at the end of March 2018, less than three years from now. Khama was roped into the BDP following a recommendation by South African based Professor Lawrence Schlemmer, who suggested the party brings someone who was popular and not tainted by party factions.
 

BDP POPULAR VOTE SINCE 1965

1965- BDP (80.4%), BPP (14.2%), BIP (4.6)
1969-BDP (68.8%), BNF (13.5%), BPP (12%)
1974- BDP (76.6%), BNF (11.5%), BPP (4.8%)
1979- BDP (75%), BNF (13%), BPP (7.4%)
1984-BDP (68%), BNF (20.4%), BPP (6.6%)
1989- BDP (64%), BNF (27%), BPP (4.3%)
1994- BDP (54.5%), BNF (37%) BPP (4%)
1999- BDP (54.3%), BNF (24.6%), BCP (11.3%), BAM (4.5%)
2004- BDP (50.6%), BNF (25.5%), BCP (16.3%), BAM (2.8%)
2009- BDP (52.3%), BNF (21.5%), BCP (18.8%), BPP (1.36%)
2014- BDP (46.7%), UDC (30.8%), BCP (19.5)

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