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General elections will be held in Botswana in 2024 to elect a new National Assembly as well as local councils across the country. As a result, a whole month has been set for registration of elections starting from 5th January 2024 to 3rd February 2024.
The expectation is that all citizens of Botswana who qualify to vote in terms of age and having the necessary documents like Identify Card (Omang) should register to vote. The Independent Election Office (IEC) has a target to register about 1,3 million people. The massage is loud and clear, all those eligible should kindly go and register to vote.
Elections play a key role in the democratic process. They are the main mechanism through which members of the public exert control over the policies the government enacts. The youth in Botswana generally fail to register and vote for a leader of their choice, however, over 60% of the population in Botswana comprise of the youth. Many issues including environmental management affect the youth. As such, the youth should be encouraged to vote since they occupy a significant proportion of those who are eligible of voting and influencing decision making in Botswana.
Political elections influence environmental quality. In this regard, the public influences government policy primarily through elections. Elections affect policy largely by determining which party controls the government. While this is the case, the environment is rarely the most important issue for voters. The environment usually does not have a large impact in general elections. The fact that the environment usually doesn’t matter in elections largely reflects the fact that voters rarely have the opportunity to hold their leaders accountable especially on environmental bills.
On the overall, the public at a global scale supports stronger environmental policies to address problems like air pollution, water pollution, and climate change. In northwestern Botswana (Ngamiland, Chobe, Boteti etc.), voters are concerned about tourism development and citizen participation and beneficiation, human wildlife interaction or conflict, livestock production and foot-and mouth matters and related access to natural resource use especially veld products, fishing etc. It is noted that over 90% of the people in north-western Botswana directly or indirectly rely on natural resources found in the Okavango River Basin and the Chobe-Zambezi River Basin. In this regard, environmental policy and elections and the voter are directly or indirectly linked. The challenge therefore is that, environmental issues including those that directly or indirectly affect people in north western Botswana are generally not given prominence in election manifestos and campaigns.
Finally, I would like to conclude by encouraging people, especially the youth to go and register for elections. Political elections have a big influence environmental and tourism issues in north western Botswana. On a similar note, I would like to state that environmental decisions lie at the interface of science and public policy. Scientists provide technical understanding, data, expert judgment, and predictions of the outcomes of alternative scenarios. Decisions also depend on the preferences of stakeholders: people interested in or affected by a decision. Stakeholders often have disparate values, interests, and prefer different tradeoffs among environmental, social, cultural, and economic criteria. As such, future research should assess the conditions, magnitude, and mechanisms driving accountability in elections for politicians’ positions on environmental issues in north western Botswana and in the country as a whole.