Two opposition party leaders are confident about the prospect of being Botswana’s next head of state as more than 900 000 citizens were voting to determine the diamond-rich country’s fate today.
Opposition parties were hoping to end Botswana Democratic Party (BDP’s) 53-year reign. The BDP has held the position of governing party since the country’s independence.
Seen as the BDP’s main threat, the ambitious Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) first contested the elections in 2014.
Its leader, Advocate Duma Boko, believed it was just a matter of time before it came to fruition. Speaking after voting in Gaborone earlier today, Boko described the democratic exercise as an “epic moment”.
“I have just cast my vote and hope others will do the same … and that with their votes they will rewrite the history of this country ... that they will totally write a different script for the economy, for the households in Botswana, and that with their votes they will present durable solutions to the problems that trouble them on daily basis,” he said.
“That is why I am extremely elated today that I have lived to be part of this moment, a very humbling moment, looking at the prospects that the very next day may be totally different. We may be looking at a spectacularly different future from what we have had so far … to live to see that moment, be part of it and make it happen is one of the most humbling experiences.”
Another presidential hopeful was Alliance of Progressives (AP) leader Ndaba Gaolathe, who was also hoping for tables to turn.
He too was in Gabarone to cast his vote and said: “I feel so refreshed ... but don’t ask me about the elections and what to expect. I am going to allow God and the people of Botswana to determine the destiny of their country.”
He said he felt “more than optimistic”.
“I’m feeling good, content, at peace and grateful. A whole lot of people have invested a lot of time, they have sacrificed their lives for this journey and I am feeling good.”
Two other front-runners, Botswana Progressive Front (BPF) leader Biggie Butale and incumbent president Mokgweetsi Masisi, voted at their respective home villages outside Gaborone today.
The UDC was founded in 2012 as a political alliance to challenge the BDP. It was formed from several parties in a bid to prevent ballot splitting. Boko himself came into the alliance as a leader of the Botswana National Front while UDC deputy president Dumelang Saleshando came in as a leader of the Botswana Congress Party.
As an alliance, the UDC won seven seats in the 2014 elections, making it the official opposition party. It was followed by the Botswana Congress Party with three seats. This left the BDP with 37 parliamentary seats out of a total of 57.
As internal strife emerged in the UDC, Gaolathe was one of those who left the alliance. He came in the UDC as member of Botswana Movement for Democracy but went on to form the AP on exiting the UDC. His popularity grew over the years and won him a spot as one of the country’s top four parties.
Formed by a disgruntled BDP member, Biggie Butale, about six months ago the BPF was also quick to earn itself a spot in the main political area of Botswana.
It later got patronage from former Botswana president Ian Khama, following a falling out with Masisi. The party is only contesting for 19 of 57 parliamentary seats – the number of parliamentary constituencies it has registered to contest in. Armed with the common goal of unseating the BDP, the BPF then went into an alliance with the UDC, their horns locked against no one but the BDP.
Voting in Botswana was expected to continue until 7pm this evening. Vote counting will start afterwards, with results from smaller areas expected to start trickling in from Thursday morning.