The American Embassy is not aware of any formal decision taken by the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) to not participate in the Gabz FM-sponsored constituency debates.
“We remain optimistic that the BDP will participate,” said the embassy’s Public Affairs Officer Amanda Jacobsen.
BDP confirmed on Monday the 30th that they have taken a decision to boycott the Gabz FM Parliamentary candidate’s debate that would be broadcast live from all the 57 constituencies.
The BDP Parliamentary candidates were allegedly sent SMS messages on their mobile phones instructing them not to take part in the debates.
The Embassy’s support of the debates aroused curiosity among political commentators. Some felt this was a sign that United States of America was not happy with the way the BDP is running the diamond rich state.
Others were of the view that the Embassy wanted to give opposition parties a platform after they complained about BDP’s monopolization of state media.
Responding to a questionnaire from The Voice, Jacobsen said their support of the independent parliamentary debates on Gabz Fm does not in any way mean the United States Government is unhappy with the status of democracy in the country.
“No democracy is perfect, whether in the United States or Botswana,” she said.
“Nonetheless, as the Charge d’Affaires said publicly on June 25 at the U.S. Embassy’s official July 4th celebration, Botswana is Africa’s foremost and greatest democracy.”
However Jacobsen said the independent debates are an important element of any democracy.
“The more people and parties that participate in debates the better.”
She further said the debates serve constituents by getting information on candidates and their positions out to the public in advance of the elections and allowing them to make an informed decision about their vote.
“Participants county-wide will be able to listen to the candidates; they will also be able to pose questions to them directly, either in person or via phone,” she said.
She further stated in her response that they hoped that this engagement and interaction with candidates will increase motivation across the country to participate in the upcoming elections.
“We also expect that information sharing and exposure to political candidates will increase accountability and transparency in government as a whole, by allowing constituents to make well-informed and educated decisions come October.”
Asked whether the US sympathized with the opposition, Jacobsen chose the diplomatic rhetoric and hailed Botswana’s strong relations with the US government.
“This has been the case under President Khama’s leadership, and we are confident that this will remain the case after the 2014 elections whether the BDP or the opposition wins the election,” she said.
Gabz FM Political debates are on daily between 1800hrs and 2000hrs.