Botswana: The October 1994 General Election

Extracted from: "Botswana" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 46-47.

After the 1991 census a new delimitation of constituencies took place. According to the census, the number of people of 21 years and over had reached 581 000 in a total population of over 1.3 million. However, taking into account the 1991-1994 population increase, only about 60% (390 000) of the eligible voters were registered as voters for the 1994 election. Six more constituencies were created, five of them in the modern towns. Gaborone was allocated three more constituencies (total five) and Francistown one more (total two), while Lobatse became a constituency on its own.

Botswana's economy was growing at lower rates in the early 1990s and government expenditure had to be curtailed, aggravating the plight of the rapidly increasing urban populations in particular. Economic, social and human rights issues figured prominently in the election campaigns of all the parties. Besides the political parties, civic organisations and NGOs joined the political debate. Moreover, the government had been plagued by corruption scandals and the BDP [Botswana Democratic Party] was suffering from internal division and other ailments that typically inflict parties that have been in power for decades. Although the BNF [Botswana National Front] considered boycotting the election, because of the government's persistent rejection of its demands for a reduction of the minimum voting age and reform of the electoral system, its leadership was persuaded by the government's vulnerability at this stage to contest the election.

While the BDP's share of the total vote dropped by 10.2%, compared with 1989, the BNF's share rose by about the same percentage (see 1994 National Assembly results). The fact that the BNF won almost one-third of the seats, compared with only one-tenth in 1989, when it obtained 27% of the vote, reflected a more realistic apportionment of constituencies to the urban areas. In the event, the BNF won in eight of the nine constituencies located in the modem towns, and in five rural constituencies. The BNF retained Ngwaketse South and Kanye and won the two seats in the Mochudi area (Kgatleng East and West, where the student revolt of 1995 started) in addition to its Okavango seat. This proved it to be not only an urban party, but one that was also making inroads in rural Botswana, especially in the densely populated settlements. Moreover, the BNF won most of its seats with large majorities, notably in three of the Gaborone constituencies.

In the local government elections the BNF improved on its 1989 performance by bringing more local councils under its control. The party won overwhelming majorities in Gaborone and Lobatse and took all the wards in Selebi-Phikwe and Jwaneng. Some observers saw the outcome of the elections, not so much as an endorsement of BNF policies, but as a massive demonstration by the voters against the government and the ruling party. Nevertheless, the BDP was still controlling two-thirds of the National Assembly's 40 elective seats or 70% if the four indirectly-elected members nominated by the president are included.

Contesting parties: In addition to the seven parties that had been involved in the 1989 election [Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), Botswana People's Party (BPP), Botswana Independence Party (BIP), Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Progressive Union (RPU), Botswana Freedom party (BFP), Botswana Labour party (BLP)], at least five new parties participated, including the Independent Freedom Party (IFP) which was the product of a merger between Mpho' s BIP [Botswana Independence Party] and the late Chief Bathoen's BFP.
Leader: Masire (BDP), Koma (BNF), Maripe (BPP), Motsamai Mpho (BIP), Daniel Kwele (BPU), Lech Tlhomelang (BFP), Lenyeletse Koma (BLP).
Number of constituencies: 40
Constituencies contested: BDP 40, BNF 39, BPPll, IFP 9, BPU 1, other parties 8.
Uncontested constituencies: None