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Dow blasts opposition over popular vote rhetoric

Unity Dow says she is more popular than most legislators

Specially Elected Member of Parliament, Dr Unity Dow, who is also Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development, has weighed heavily on the debate concerning the country’s electoral system – First Past The Post (FPTP), and the Special Election of Members of Parliament as well as Nomination of Councillors.


Responding to President Lt Gen Ian Khama’s State of the Nation Address this week, Dow was not impressed with the opposition chants that the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was not popularly elected, hence it was a minority government. The opposition has also condemned the Special Election of MPs and Nomination of Councillors, labelling the two dispensations, a fraud meant to reward losers and rejects.  


Dow herself was Specially Elected by Parliament after losing to Gilbert Mangole in the Mochudi West constituency during the October general election. Mangole was voted by 8856 people while Dow trailed with 6085 votes and the BCP’s Alfred Ramono Pilane was voted by 3558 residents.


First on Dr Dow’s radar was the question of popular vote, which she took time to dissect to the National Assembly, explaining that it can be understood in many facets. She even dispelled the said popularity of some Members of Parliament who come from constituencies similar in size to the one she contested. She stressed that she was in fact more popular than most MPs; hence their being in the house could be subjected to similar scrutiny.


DOW ON SPECIAL ELECTION OF MPS
“I believe we can all agree that the Special Election of MPs process was designed to give newly elected party a chance to assess its winning margin and to audit the expertise delivered by the electorate and to then decide how to ensure that it has both the numbers and the expertise to deliver on its elections promises. That is how my party employed the system,” observed Dow.


She said if anyone does not like the system, a system regulated by law; they do not call the system a “dictatorship” and “devilish” as some MPs have decided. “They propose a reasoned and rational amendment to the law, “if the law does not pass, the UDC will be put on notice on how the UDC, they ever take power, will amend that particular law,” she said.


DOW ON POPULAR VOTE
Dow further observed that complaints against the current electoral system were not limited to the SEMP system only. “There are complaints that the current electoral system of First Past the Post (FPTP) allows for the BDP to have won when it did not get the “popular vote”. The Assistant Minister of Education and Skills Development said the BDP, according to the opposition should not be in power because it did not win the popular vote –m meaning that it did not get more than 50 percent of the votes cast.


Dow said it appears that the opposition only wants to employ the popular vote rhetoric where it suits them. She gave a number of examples of Members of Parliament who she said did not get the popular votes from constituencies where they contested. She further stressed that she got more votes than most of the Members of Parliament.

Dow gave examples of MPs Wynter Mmolotsi (5261 votes), Dithapelo keorapetse (4247), Haskins Nkaigwa (5738), Sedirwa Kgoroba (4180), Dr Tlamelo Mmatli (5 967), Noah Salakae (3999), Phenyo Butale (4601 votes), among others as examples of MPs who fail the popular vote test. She indicated that she got 6085 votes, a number significantly higher than ones achieved by the MPs she mentioned.


“Candidate to Candidate, I received more votes than any of these individuals – Candidate to candidate, I received a higher popular vote than any of these gentlemen did – by what right then are they sitting in this house?”  Dow said if the popular should be the yardstick, then none of those with votes less than hers should be in the National Assembly. “But they are and they are entitled to be; because the electoral laws allow it. Perhaps the UDC wishes to change the law; if they do, I invite them to propose legislative amendments to the law,” she said.  


According to Dow, only 27 of the 57 Members of Parliament got the popular vote. She cited the examples of Bagalatia Arone, Guma Moyo, Edwin Batshu, Pelonomi Venson-Moitoi, Prince Maele, among others. She said only six of the UDC’s 17 Members of Parliament received the popular vote, and only one of the BCP’s three Members of Parliament received the popular vote.

“So the devilish dictatorship that Honourable Phenyo Butale is complaining about has served him well. He has not received the popular vote. He was voted by only 4601 people. The City of Gaborone has a population of 231 592. Assuming that a fifth are in Hon Butale’s constituency, there are 46 300 people in his constituency. Of these only 11 609 registered to vote. Of these 4601 sent him to Parliament. Mochudi West has about the same number of people, 46 500. Of those 6085 voted for me. That is 1484 more than those who voted Hon Phenyo Butale,” she said.


Dow encouraged the opposition to suggest legislative reforms so that no one enters the National Assembly without having achieved the “magical popular vote.”

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