Botswana could wake up having a new president as vote counting continues amid a tight contest between the governing party leader, Mokgweetsi Masisi, and opposition leader, Duma Boko.
Any of the two men to bag 29 National Assembly seats will automatically be declared the new head of state.
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 Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) spokesperson Osupile Maroba said the country’s Chief Justice Terence Rannowane was on standby to pronounce as the new president any presidential candidate whose party hits the threshold mark.
He said this could happen at any time from now.
Meanwhile, it is the governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) against the opposition, Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), who are leading the race and vying for the finish line of 29 seats to become the ruling party.
The UDC has made it clear it was also vying for Masisi to make way for its leader, Boko.
The opposition scored 17 parliamentary seats in its first elections in 2014 while BDP took 27 seats and the 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 had 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 BDP 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 – the Botswana Progressive Party (BPF) – was yet to score any seat.
The party was contesting in 19 constituencies with 18 of them based in Central District which is 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.
Results from many areas in their district were yet to be released to determine whether voters from Khama’s area remained loyal to his father’s party, BDP, or decided to vote and send candidates from his new party to parliament instead.