Botswana: The October 1974 General Election

Extracted from: "Botswana" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 43-44.

In the 1971 census (the first census since independence) a total population of 574 000 was counted and a new delimitation of constituencies took place. According to the census the total number of persons aged 21 (the voting age) and over was about 245 000 of whom almost 237 000 registered as voters. Only 64 000. or just over 31% of the registered voters turned out to vote.

Despite the low percentage poll, the ruling BDP [Botswana Democratic Party] increased its number of seats and share of the total vote (see 1974 National Assembly results for more detail). In contrast, each of the two main opposition parties. lost a seat while the share of all three opposition parties in the total vote declined, compared with the previous election. The local council elections reflected the same pattern, with only 30.3% of the voters casting their votes and the BDP strengthening its position. It was evident that Botswana had become a one-party-dominant state.

Analysts were unable to come up with conclusive findings about the reasons for the voters ' stay-away. The government was quick to conclude that the voters were satisfied with the government and had therefore become complacent. Opposition leaders pointed out that the ruling party had better resources, including access to state facilities, resulting in a stronger party organisation than those of the opposition parties. There was no doubt that the BDP was taking party organisation seriously. Of course, opposition leaders preferred not to menti9n the possibility of their parties fielding unimpressive candidates as a reason for the weak performance. Independent observers noted the possibility of voter apathy and the lack of voter education, but also pointed out that non-voting could be an expression of discontent. These voters do not vote because their disenchantment is not strong enough to switch party allegiance or because of the perceived absence. of a party deserving support It may also be that they do not see the benefits of voting and have become alienated from the system. According to the supervisor of elections, the voting rolls were out of date and if non-existent voters and duplicated names were to be excluded the polling rate would be nearer to 40%. The low poll undoubtedly resulted from a combination of the mentioned factors.

Contesting parties: Botswana Democratic party (BDP), Botswana People's Party (BPP), Botswana Independence Party (BIP), Botswana National Front (BNF).
Leaders: Seretse Khama (BDP), Philip Matante (BPP), Motsamai Mpho (BIP), Bathoen and Koma (BNF).
Constituencies contested: BDP 32, BNF 14, BPP 8, RIP 6, three independent candidates.
Uncontested constituencies: The BDP was unopposed in four constituencies.