BDP scores another victory, despite a stiff opposition challenge
31 October 2019
The 12th Botswana general election held on October 23rd was won by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). The 2019 elections were, in our view, the most closely fought in recent decades, and it seemed that there was a reasonable possibility that the main opposition grouping, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) might have won, or indeed that there could have been no overall majority, leading to a hung Parliament. The BDP's share of the popular vote also increased significantly to 53% from 47% between the 2014 and 2019 general elections. At Parliamentary level, the BDP's representation increased by one Member of Parliament (MP) to attain 38 MPs of the 57 Parliamentary seats, while the opposition got the remaining 19 seats in 2019. Hence, the BDP got a confortable victory for its leader, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi, for a five year term in office as the President of the Republic of Botswana. The new government entails a mixture of continuity and change. While there is continuity in the form of ongoing BDP rule, President Masisi has made it clear that he intends to implement a transformational agenda that will enable Botswana to address current challenges. In doing so he will need to use his victory and the vote of confidence that it represents to introduce some dramatic changes, some of which might be politically unpopular, in the expectation that these will bring about dividends in the second half of his term. Economic transformation is complex and difficult, and has to result in Botswana becoming more competitive and productive than it is at present. This may involve making the most of “4th Industrial Revolution” technologies such as artificial intelligence, but first of all it has to focus on getting the basics right and delivering public services efficiently – filling in potholes, getting streetlights to work, making sure there are medicines in clinics and textbooks in schools, and ensuring that the government data network is functional. President Masisi’s Cabinet will have many new faces, in part because there are so many new BDP MPs. They will have many urgent challenges, including dealing firmly with corruption; rational prioritisation of competing spending demands; improving implementation of projects; and having the courage to terminate or significantly change ineffective programmes. These are all pre-requisites for increasing the rate of economic growth and significantly improving job creation.