Botswana’s decades-long governing party has begun taking the lead, giving strong indications that its leader, Mokgweeetsi Masisi, may retain his position as president.
With results for 18 parliamentary seats released by 10pm on Thursday, Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) had already bagged 10 seats followed by the opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), with five.
Supporters dressed in BDP’s red and UDC’s blue colours were gathered outside some of the biggest polling stations where counting was still underway in Gaborone.
The loudest were BDP supporters whose singing and dancing intensified with every announcement of a seat won by their party.
Results trickling in earlier indicated a tight contest between the governing party leader Masisi, and opposition leader, Duma Boko.
Tables, however, turned after it was announced that the BDP had 10 seats and increased their lead margin.
At 10, the BDP needs just 19 more seats for Masisi to be declared president of the new term of governance.
Any party that would give Botswana a president for the next five years needs 29 National Assembly seats. National elections were contested in 57 parliamentary constituencies and, as dictated by the country’s Constitution, any party with a presidential candidate that wins more than 50% of those constituencies takes the helm.
Botswana IEC spokesperson, Osupile Maroba, said earlier that the country’s Chief Justice, Terence Rannowane, was on standby to pronounce the new president when any presidential candidate’s party hit the threshold mark.
Unless it starts catching up, the UDC could slowly be watching parliamentary seats slipping through its fingers as BDP continues collecting.
During campaigns, the UDC made it clear it was working towards removing Masisi and BDP.
The opposition scored 17 parliamentary seats in its first elections in 2014 while BDP took 27 and Botswana Congress Party took the remaining three.
The first parliamentary seat announced earlier on Thursday was won by BDP in Kgalagadi North with 5534 votes, closely followed by UDC with 5072 votes.
It was announced within an hour that the UDC has also won its first seat in Phikwe West with 2987 votes with the BDP right on its tail with 2537.
The graph kept on going up and down with the two parties overtaking each other as results trickled in. The leader was UDC with five seats and UDC with three just before 6pm.
The Alliance for Progressives (AP) which was formed after its leader and presidential candidate, Ndaba Gaolathe, left the UDC, had at the time won a National Assembly seat in Francistown South.
A breakaway party from BDP, Botswana Progressive Party (BPF), had by 10pm collected two seats in Serowe.
The party was contesting in 19 constituencies with 18 of them based in Central District which is a historically a BDP stronghold but includes Serowe areas where former president Ian Khama reins as Paramount Chief of Bangwato.
Khama and his brother, Tshekedi Khama, followed each other out of the BDP which was co-founded by their father and Botswana’s first president, Sir Seretse Khama, and joined the BPF.
Tshekedi was contesting for a parliamentary seat in Serowe and he would be returning to Parliament in a BPF cap after winning Serowe West constituency in what could arguably be a show of loyalty to the Khama brothers by their tribal community.
Vote counting continues.