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Southern African state of Botswana heads to the polls in hotly contested election


Southern African state of Botswana heads to the polls in hotly contested election

botswana election
Photo: Sello Motseta/AP

Botswana heads to the polls today in what are set to be the most hotly contested general elections since the country gained independence from the UK in 1966.

Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi, the leader of the governing Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), faces challenges from the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).

The election will be hard-fought as political tensions reached a nadir when former president and BDP head Ian Khama vacated the presidency and left the party altogether over disagreements with its policy direction in April 2018. Khama has backed the smaller UDC, so the ruling BDP will be devoid of Khama’s political clout, especially in the important Central District.

Twenty-nine seats are needed to form a majority in the 57-seat National Assembly. The UDC hopes to reduce the BDP’s chances of forming a government by increasing or maintaining the 17 seats it won in 2014. If the BPF receives at least 12 seats and the UDC maintains its 17 seats, the two parties could form a coalition government.

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President Masisi’s popularity with the domestic population and foreign investors will likely still see the BDP win the election, but by a slim margin. Pledges to stimulate employment by promoting skilled labour training and relaxing business regulations for foreign investors, especially in the agro-infrastructure and mining sectors, boost his chances.

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