Botswana: Friday’s general election will see President Khama attempt to secure a second term

By Drum Digital
23 October 2014

Dubbed "Judgement Day" by local media, Friday's general election will see President Ian Khama attempt to secure a second term, following a lavish campaign anchored on the successes of his party's long history in office.

Botswana's political parties made their final pitches Thursday in a fiercely fought election that will test the strength of the ruling party against an invigorated opposition driven by a growing calls for change.

Khama's Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has governed the landlocked diamond-rich southern African country since independence from Britain in 1966.

Khama is battling to win over voters in urban areas, where opposition parties have made some inroads since the formation of a breakaway party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) in 2010.

The 61-year-old son of the country's first president Seretse Khama, Ian Khama is also a traditional chief of the Bangwato clan and can count on strong rural support.

Underscoring his countryside appeal, Khama will cast his vote in the central town of Serowe, which has given Botswana three presidents -- two Khamas as well as Festus Mogae.

Despite Botswana's relatively solid economic performance during the global financial crisis, the incumbent is running on a platform of change.

"I am pained that we have not been able to do more for our citizens who cannot find work, especially our talented youth... we must do more," Khama said in a letter to the nation last week.

With the global financial crisis leading to a drop in diamond revenues, Khama's government has halted planned investment, leading to growing unemployment and a slow progress in diversify the economy.

Fighting to topple Khama is Dumelang Saleshando, leader of the official opposition, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP).

According to an Afrobarometer report issued last week, the BCP -- which has campaigned under the slogan "Ready to Lead" -- is the fastest growing party in the country.

Another major contender is Duma Boko of the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), a coalition of parties which will be contesting the elections for the first time.

Boko has accused Khama of being increasingly authoritarian, arguing the country needs and change in leader.

But few expect a change this time round.

"Victory for the Khama and the BDP is certain," said 31-year-old Frances Khomo in Gaborone.

"I don't see anyone who is good enough to lead other than the BDP, they have the experience of running the country and deserve more votes."

The Botswana Electoral Commission said it was confident of a "peaceful and professionally run election" stating that voting materials were ready to be sent to all voting stations.

"The conduct of the parties has been impressive... we are confident of delivering a hassle-free vote," said commission spokesman Osupile Maroba.

More than 824,000 people are registered to vote. Polling stations will open at 6:30 am (0430 GMT) and close at 1700 GMT.


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