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Botswana Opposition Parties Consider Forming Alliance

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A founding member of the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) says his group is engaging in talks with several opposition parties to form an alliance ahead of next year’s general elections.

The other negotiating parties include the Botswana Congress Party, the Botswana National Front and the Botswana People’s Party.

Sydney Pilane says a unified opposition stands a better chance of defeating President Ian Khama’s ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in next year’s vote.

“The talks are [meant] to form an umbrella party, under the banner of which they will enter the next election as a single party,” continued Pilane. “[The parties would support] one presidential candidate and a common group of members of parliament so that if they should succeed, they could form the next government.”

The ruling BDP has been in power since Botswana gained independence from former colonial power Britain in 1965.

Some analysts say the lack of unity among the opposition enables the ruling BDP to win elections with ease. Pilane partly agrees with the analysis, but said the other parties are confident in their ability to challenge ruling party.

“There a people who believe that these [four] parties are capable of winning on their own,” said Pilane. “But, we are not prepared to take the chance when that may not be the case. We think the time has come for us to have a government not from the current ruling party… but by a different party. It’s time for change, and we think our people need a new direction.”

Some observers are skeptical about the opposition coalition talks. They contend that previous attempts have failed, thus allowing the ruling party to maintain its political dominance.

Pilane admits negotiations between the parties have been challenging, but expressed confidence in the commitment of the groups to form the alliance.

“It was inevitable that the talks would be difficult. These are different parties, each with its own ideology beliefs, and history. However, the will is so strong,” said Pilane. “The recognition of the need to work together is so much stronger than the differences there might be among these parties, and therefore I entertain no doubt that they will succeed in what they seek to do.”

Critics say members of the different parties could undermine a future government if the coalition wins the next election. But, Pilane disagrees with that assertion.

“The parties are getting to know each other more and they will understand each and other more, and that should propel them to work together, when the time comes that they must do,” said Pilane.