Social media reshapes 2019 political campaigns
Social media stands out as a platform increasingly playing a strategic role in political campaigns ahead of 2019 general elections, with political parties and their lead candidates seeking to increase their online resence and engagement with potential voters. BAKANG TIRO glances into how the prominent social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter have rolled out the election campaigns so far.
#Decent jobs, decent lives, #Imagine a new Botswana, #Ke Nako and #Masisi O A Re Bitsa’ are hash tags popularized in recent months as political parties embrace social media to engage voters on digital platforms ahead of the 2019 general elections, slated for October 23.
Political analyst have said that the 2019 election campaigns have been visible and active on the internet, as these open new opportunities to energize political participation and campaigns. Political analyst Mokaloba Mokaloba says political parties could not ignore the important impact of social media in communicating with voters, especially young voters who always show a lot of voter apathy.
He said 2019 campaigns have been more vibrant in the social media space more than any other before due to the changing communication tools.“The old traditional means of reaching to voters through rallies or freedom squares are not so much prominent in this year’s elections. This shows that our political parties are transforming into the digital revolution hence this at least speaks to manifestos of some of the parties that are keen on knowledge based economy through embracing digitilsation,” said Mokaloba.
However, he observes that Twitter remains the least tapped social media across the parties.
A study by two University of Botswana (UB) political science academics, Batlang Seabo and Bontle Masilo discovered that outcome of youth’s interest in politics is due to increased use of social media as a mobilising tool during the 2014 general elections.
Their study titled ‘’Facebook: Revolutionising Elections Campaign in Botswana’’ indicates that traditional media also make use of social media to amplify their reach during elections period. Moreover, the extensive use of social media, in particular Facebook, according to the study adds new dimension to the campaigns as candidates do not have to rely on traditional media.
Due to its affordability, Masilo and Batlang found that social media also levels the ground for opposition parties as they are mostly grappling with limited resources for oiling the campaigns. “The use of social media in Botswana has made information on elections available to the public at lower price and effectively democratized electoral competition by ensuring that domination by the BDP state media does not simply leave the opposition out of running,” the study found.
Parties in digital space
Here is a glimpse of how political parties continue to leverage their campaigns on social media.
Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)
The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which has been this year hurt by another split that led to the formation of marauding Botswana Patriotic Front (BDP) has been active on facebook.
Its facebook page dubbed ‘’ BDP- Tsholetsa Domkrag’’ boosts of over 83 000 followers, through it the party consistently engages the voters on the party’s events and its pledges for Batswana.
Moreover, the BDP facebook page’s posts are dominated by President Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi’ messages of inspiration on daily basis, also receive mixed reactions from those who comments.
President Masisi also possesses his own official facebook page with over 176 000 followers and twitter account where he occasionally makes the posts and tweets in endeavor to lure voters.
Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC)
UDC has stood out to be one of the most well organized party in dealing with its social media platforms, as it one of the parties that have a Whatsapp group set for the media engagement.
While the party’s social media platforms don’t have many followers like that of the BDP, the party has managed to beat others as most of its 2019 candidates have active facebook pages.
UDC’s official facebook page portal has 27 000 followers while its supporters group boosts of 84 000 members, while UDC president Duma Boko has over 100 000 followers on facebook.
Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF)
As the new kid on the block, Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF) is yet to cement its position on the digital space campaign but, the party has since amassed 15 000 followers in its facebook page.
However, the party’ s Patron- Former President Ian Khama is one of the effective people in the social media space as he campaigns on daily basis for both the BPF and UDC through rallies.
Khama’s facebook page is one of the most followed with over 200 000 followers more than of his successor President Mokgweetsi Masisi and he does live recording of his activities every day.
BPF president Biggie Butale is not much effective in social media compared to his other three presidential counterparts in Duma Boko, Mokgweetsi Masisi and Ndaba Gaolatlhe respectively.
Alliance for Progressives (AP)
The Ndaba Gaolatlhe led movement has been the first party to be active in social media following its formation in 2017 but, it’s the lowest party in followers on the digital space.
AP currently has 13,541 followers on facebook and is also doing well in providing profile details of its parliamentary and council candidates.
The party president Ndaba currently has a followership of 37,322 people in his facebook portal.
BMD, RAP missing links
The troubled Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) that recently suffered a debilitating blow following its successive defeats against UDC in court is missing on the campaigns election.
BMD’s presence in the campaigns so far has been felt on the radio Botswana debates where by the party’s parliamentary candidates only seem to have their voice heard for their campaigns.
Real Alternative Party (RAP) has also not done very much in selling its manifesto by taking the advantage of social media although the party has only fielded three parliamentary candidates.
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