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Botswana - 2019 Election

Botswana is a constitutional, multiparty, republican democracy. Its constitution provides for the indirect election of a president and the popular election of a National Assembly. Since independence in 1966, Botswana has been ruled by only one political party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP). Although the ruling party has won all elections, it garnered less than 50 percent in the 2014 vote, giving the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) more seats in parliament. The October 2014 election was deemed generally free and fair. President Ian Khama retained his position.

President Ian Khama stepped down 31 March 2018 to make way for his vice president, exactly a decade - to the day - after he became president of the diamond-rich Southern African nation. Current Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi took his place. Botswana law restricts the president to serving two five-year terms, and provides for the vice president to automatically fill the post should it become vacant. The National Assembly will elect a new president after elections scheduled for October 2019.

While the constitution formally recognizes eight principal tribes of the Tswana nation, amendments to the constitution also allow minority tribes to be represented in the House of Chiefs. The law provides that members from all groups enjoy equal rights, and minority tribes have representation in the House of Chiefs in equal standing to that of the eight principal tribes.

By August 2018 growing instability within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has forced President Mokgweetsi Masisi to reshuffle his cabinet in the process to address poor performance. Highly placed sources within the party and at the Office of the President (OP) revealed that President Masisi was unhappy with the conduct and performance of some cabinet ministers and so redeployed them. continued interference by former President Ian Khama in the party and government operations seems to be taking its toll on the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leadership. Such instability was said to have forced President Mokgweetsi Masisi to take steps against internal strife and revamp both the party and government ahead of the 2019 General Elections.

Masisi shot the first warning by suspending parliamentary candidate for Mogoditshane, Tshepang Mabaila, for influencing BDP MPs to vote with the opposition on the motion of no confidence against the President. "We don't see him survive the disciplinary hearing and immediately after the suspension Masisi is going to expel him from the party," revealed a member of the central Committee.

Not only was Mabaila alleged to have influenced BDP MPs he is allegedly to have promised some of them resources for their campaign. It was suspected that Mabaila was just a hired gun shooting on behalf of some high ranking party members as the internal fights within the ruling party intensified. "The guy promised MPs that he will fund their primary election campaigns and that former president will endorse their candidacy," it was revealed.

A surprise decision by Government 05 September 2018 to withdraw amendments to the Electoral Act, which introduced electronic voting, increased nomination fees and fines, and cancelled supplementary registration has sparked wild speculation with many suggesting that the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) fears infiltration by rogue elements in 2019.

Recent reports of hacking and manipulation of voters rolls, which led to the postponement of Bulela Ditswe following a tip off from the Directorate of Intelligence and security Services (DISS) are alleged to have forced the BDP government to finally bow to pressure to abandon plans to use Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) in 2019 general elections.

The opposition Botswana Congress Party (BCP) welcomed government's intention to abandon EVM use and reinstate supplementary voter registratio. The party had serious security, privacy and reliability as well as efficiency and effectiveness concerns about the EVMs.

In the run-up to the 23 October 2019 general election a fierce power struggle erupted within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) and the head of state prematurely handed over office to a successor. In April 2018, Ian Khama was replaced as president by his chosen successor Mokgweetsi Masisi. Shortly thereafter, however, the two had a falling out, with each accusing the other of acting autocratically. Their mudslinging poisoned the atmosphere within the BDP.

The Khama-Masisi conflict could lead to a first victory at the polls for the opposition since Botswana won independence from Britain in 1966. The rift between the former allies went so deep that Khama broke with the BDP in May and, along with his brother, now supports the newly-formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).

At the same time, the ex-president whose father Seretse Khama was a BDP founder sought closer ties with the opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) in a bid to challenge Masisi in the election. If Ian Khama succeeds, it will spell the first defeat at the polls for the BDP in 53 years. The possible outcome of the election is still open, however. It remains unclear clear who can bank on votes in favor of Khama. There is no clarity as to which party the former president actually belongs to. The former president never officially quit the BDP. Within the opposition, some are upset that Khama has campaigned for the left wing UDC.

That the outcome of the election is so hard to predict is due also in part to Botswana's electoral system, which is based on the British majority voting system. A first-past-the-post system is used in 57 single-member of parliament voting districts. Six more members come out of the ruling party. In the 2014 election, that system helped the BDP to obtain the majority of the seats in Parliament, although the opposition jointly won more than 50% of the vote. After the parliamentary election, the president is elected by the National Assembly.

President Mokgweetsi Masisi will remain in office after his ruling party won enough parliament seats in the election. The final results are not yet complete, but Chief Justice Terence Rannowane said 25 October 2019 the ruling Botswana Democratic Party had won the needed 29 seats in the National Assembly. The opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change was well behind with a dozen seats as counting neared an end.


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Page last modified: 31-10-2019 16:49:29 ZULU