What’s in a Vote?

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For many, disillusionment in Botswana politics reigns. As the nation gears towards the 2019 elections many of us wonder why we should vote. The disillusionment is by all accounts understandable. The comedy of errors that has come to define our political landscape is enough to make even the most optimistic of optimists pessimistic. The reason I took time to pen this piece was because of the intensified drive for eligible citizens of Botswana to get their IDs in order so they can register for the elections. It is beyond question that elections play a big part in the democratic process.

 

The 2019 election cycle come at an interesting period both in local and international politics. The elections come at a point when toxic nationalism and totalitarianism are bearing its head. Democracy is but on the brink of collapse across the globe or on the verge of re-establishing itself as the best of the worst systems of governance. As China under President Xi continues to grow its influence on the global scene, the USA is fast losing its position as the moral compass of the world. President Trump and his affinity for the strongman autocrats has left a void in the international body of politics.

 

However, all is not lost. Whether democracy works depends on the citizens and civic organizations. We have reached a point where we have no choice but to make democracy work. We owe it to ourselves and most importantly to posterity. Julius Caesar, the Roman Emperor once said “Men, at some time, are masters of their fates”. What the world and mostly Botswana becomes is a result of our collective choices. These choices extend beyond the ballot box. Our general attitudes shape the attitude of those who hold public office and the policies they churn out.

 

The disillusionment I spoke of earlier is a result of our nonchalant approach to politics. We have absolved ourselves of the responsibility of making democracy and the government work. Whether this is by design is a subject for philosophical and research-based debate. Civic participation has been reduced to a single cast of the vote every electoral cycle. For those in power it bodes well with them as there is less pressure to be accountable and it shifts the balance of power to them. In theory, in a democratic setup the power resides in the masses and the government acts as an agent of those who wield power.  This, however, is not the case. Governments have been notoriously becoming more powerful than the people and at times the bane of their existence.

 

As a people we can give meaning and power to our vote. It means being involved beyond the ballot. The only cure to the tragic nature of our politics is to stop being numbers political parties and politicians fight to collect and put weight behind our votes. For one to weight their vote, one has to give a damn about politics. One has to choose to demand accountability from those seek their vote. It is only voters that can give mandate and consequently withdraw mandate. Where possible make those, they mandated to stick to the bounds of that mandate.

 

Many of us are wondering at this whether we should register to vote for the 2019 elections. Why they should vote in 2019? Who to vote for in 2019? We all have a civic duty and responsibility to vote and we are free not vote. I wouldn’t advice anyone not to vote notwithstanding their freedom. Go spoil a vote if you feel no one is worthy if need be or choose the worst of the terrible choices before you. The point is, go and make a choice rather than have the world make it for you. After voting go out and make your vote count. It is not enough to have your vote countered. Write a blogpost like I am doing. Stop your representative and demand action and answers without apology. Organize demonstrations, peaceful demonstrations. Establish lobby groups to advance causes which are dear to you. At the end of the day you must be able to say I made my vote count, I contributed to national discourse.

 

There is always a reason to vote, it is not the politicians who should give you the reason to vote but you. Individually and collectively we should determine the reasons why we vote by shaping the political discourse and not have it dictated to us. Your vote matters to the elected officials only if it matters to you

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