The elections have come and passed. Well at least we thought. Now we hear that the UDC is gathering evidence that there might have been some electoral fraud. This is very common in almost every election - where the loser has some concerns about the outcome of the election. It even happens in the USA, a leading mature democracy.
While we do not know yet the evidence that the UDC might have against the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), I would suggest that what is uncovered, and no matter how damning the evidence is, the UDC must not act on it and force a re-run. It will be a folly exercise that could cost them big, even if they are in the right. Here is why.
The nation is currently gripped in state of hope. What we are witnessing now is crowd psychology or change in national psychology that comes after a major change/or occurrence. Following former President Khama’s decade in power, which left many frustrated and disenfranchised, his exit was greatly celebrated.
Sunday Standard editor Spencer Mogapi in the preceding months had written that whoever takes from Khama, they will have an easy job of the presidency, because all the new president had to do was restore confidence. Our current President Masisi took to this earnestly, and it earned him the respect from many quarters. Therefore, it was always going to be hard for the opposition to unseat Masisi in this election because he enjoys sympathy from the public. In him they saw a fresh breath of air - same thing they saw in Khama when he ascended to the presidency. It’s all about national psychology.
In a country plagued by low wages, unemployment, and rising inequality, any talk of change after a period of hardship will guarantee you an ear. Both parties spoke to this, but Masisi’s message was simple and that worked. He promised a new way fo doing things, the rebirth of BDP. On the other hand, the UDC probably had the best manifesto and ideas for the country. However, people are put “off by intellectual and complex subjects in any case”, and with no experience with the issue, and coming from an opposition party, it became an onerous task to engage with the public about their manifesto, and trying to convince the people required a lot of time and effort. Thus, Masisi wa re bitswa was more relatable. It did not involve any complex thinking. The president promised change and left it there.
Masisi’s popularity across the divide also soared following Khama’s decampaign of his former ally. Instead, the ex-military commander bulldozed his way into forming a partnership with the UDC. While there is no official agreement between Khama and UDC, the former always made pronouncements that he will help UDC take power. This development spooked many people who were still reeling from the trauma of his presidency.
Still, this was a game changer for the BDP campaign which quickly seized the opportunity. Another simple message was delivered: UDC wants to bring Khama back to power. No matter how the UDC tried to explain how impossible that will be, the association was too hard to ignore. Moreover, saying complicated things that contain uncomfortable truths wont appeal to anyone. Instead, people chose to believe the simple message from the BDP, protect your country, which supported their inherent prejudices and reminded them of how life was under Khama.
The BDP went on to win the elections with big margins down south, effectively giving Masisi the chance to rule. Now for the UDC to challenge this, even if they were cheated as they allege, they will still lose, and with even a bigger margin. The president still enjoys the sympathy from the public, and the UDC is still viewed with suspicion.
The only sensible way for the UDC is to retreat, and re-strategize. Fortunately for them they have the BCP which knows first hand how hard and painful it is to be at the receiving end of crowd psychology during the 2014 elections when they had to endure smear campaign, accused of working with the BDP. The trick was to wait it out and let the truth come out at its own time. The truth always comes out.
Right now the UDC stands accused of working with foreign interests, as well as trying to bring Khama to power. The matter is made complicated by the media that has also become partisan in their misguided crusade of protecting the country from being sold. Most accusations leveled against the UDC, which has been put under intense scrutiny compared to the BDP, may seem unfair, but when has life ever been fair?
If they go ahead and challenge an injustice, the voters will not see it that way. As I said, people hate dealing with complex matters. Given that, the UDC stands the risk of being accused of causing civil strife in the country or ruining Botswana’s reputation. Sometimes you win by losing, and this is that time.
If UDC goes ahead and challenges the results, whatever the outcome may be, they must not go for elections re-run. Let President Masisi