AD228: Batswana support democracy, but satisfaction and perceived freedom of speech decline

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Thomas Isbell and Batlang Seabo

Botswana has long been considered a leader in democratic practice, ranking among Africa’s best performers with regard to good governance, the rule of law, and respect for civil liberties. But in recent years, the same experts who have given the country high marks have also downgraded Botswana’s freedom status in response to a series of attacks on media and arrests of journalists (Freedom House, 2016), placed it among high-scoring but “deteriorating” countries in terms of good governance (Mo Ibrahim, 2016), and criticized former President Ian Khama’s “reliance on edicts and decision by caprice” (Good, 2009, p. 320).

While scholars credit the country with conducting regular and free elections within a multiparty system, they also note that a single party has dominated electoral competition since independence (Kebonang & Kaboyakgosi, 2017; Taylor, 2003; Good & Taylor, 2007).

Findings from the most recent Afrobarometer survey in Botswana suggest that some citizens, too, are troubled by developments in their democracy over the past decade. While Batswana still strongly endorse democracy and multiparty competition, they are significantly less likely to express satisfaction with the way their democracy is working and feel less free to say what they think.

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