Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi votes in Botswana's general elections in Moshupa, some 45kms (30 miles) west of Gaborone. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP
Botswana President Mokgweetsi Masisi votes in Botswana's general elections in Moshupa, some 45kms (30 miles) west of Gaborone. Picture: Jerome Delay/AP

Vote counting underway after peaceful Botswana elections

By Andrew Maramwidze And Alexandra Mayer-Hohdahl Time of article published Oct 24, 2019

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Gaborone - Counting was under way in Botswana on Wednesday

after peaceful parliamentary elections that represented a showdown

between the country's current president and its former leader.

The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has ruled the southern African

country since independence from Britain in 1966, overseeing its rise

from one of the world's poorest nations to a middle-income country

thanks to diamond production.

But the party has had to contend with the defection earlier this year

of the country's former long-time leader Ian Khama, who was succeeded

as president in 2018 by Mokgweetsi Masisi.

The two men have since had a falling-out, with Masisi reversing

several policies that were dear to Khama's heart, for instance a ban

on elephant hunting. Khama has created an opposition party,

the Botswana Patriotic Front, to contest the elections.

Masisi nevertheless was confident of achieving victory.

"It's as automatic as the sun rising in the east and setting in the

west. We're going to win," he told journalists after casting his vote

on Wednesday.

In an interview with South African news outlet EWN, Khama accused

Masisi of failing to carry on the BDP legacy of using Botswana's

national resources for "the development of the people and the nation

at large" and having "very strong democratic credentials."

"We've just seen somebody who became drunk on power, falling into

that power trap that we've seen happen in ... some other African

countries," he said. "It's just astonishing."

Botswana has long been considered one of Africa's most stable

democracies. The diamond-rich country has, however, also struggled

with high unemployment, which official records peg at 17 per cent,

but opposition parties believe is higher.

Diamond mining does not create that many jobs, so "inequality is

pretty high," says Keith Jefferis of the Econsult Botswana research

organization. The challenge for the new government will be to move

from diamond-led growth to diversified exports, he predicted.

Fifty-seven constituencies are contested in the elections, with just

under 925,500 people registered to vote. The Botswana parliament

elects the country's president.

Preliminary results are expected to be released on Thursday.

dpa

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