Saturday, October 17, 2009

Botswana's Ruling Party Claims Election Victory

Botswana’s ruling party claims election victory

Posted Saturday, October 17 2009 at 18:49

Botswana’s ruling party claimed victory in the country’s general election on Saturday extending President Ian Khama’s rule over the world’s largest diamond producer for another five years.

Khama’s Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), in power since independence from Britain in 1966, said it had secured a majority of the parliamentary constituencies. “We have reached the 29 out of the 57,” Langston Motsete, a member of the BDP’s election committee, told Reuters.

Independent Electoral Commission spokesman Oscar Maroba said he expected final results to be announced later on Saturday. The BDP had been expected to retain control over the southern African nation in the parliamentary and presidential elections held on Friday, despite frustration over a recession and infighting in the party.

The country has been hit hard as a global economic slowdown cuts demand for diamonds, which account for close to 40 per cent of the economy. The crisis has plunged the landlocked country into debt and gross domestic product is forecast to shrink 10 percent.

However, investors regard Botswana as one of Africa’s best-run countries with a history of budget surpluses and the region’s strongest currency, a sharp contrast to neighbouring Zimbabwe, which is crippled by political and economic turmoil.

The BDP has been dogged by internal squabbles which has seen some of its support wane. It lost a main constituency stronghold to the opposition Botswana National Front (BNF) in the capital Gaborone.

Khama, son of the country’s first president, has been in heated arguments with the BDP’s chairman and suspended its secretary-general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, for allegedly undermining his authority.

The row has intensified charges of autocracy and populism against Khama, a British-trained army lieutenant-general who has said politics was never his first choice of career. He has dismissed suggestions that infighting could hurt his party.

The BDP won 77.2 per cent of the vote in the last election in 2004. From the look of things, Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is likely to eclipse BNF as the main opposition party.

Counting in Botswana’s general elections started on Saturday morning after a peaceful voting exercise on Friday. Voters in some constituencies complained about long queues and delays as others had trouble with identification documents, double registration or missing names.

The candidate whose party produces the majority of MPs is declared the winner of the presidential race. The returning officer for presidential elections in Botswana is the chief justice.

The three presidential candidates voted in their respective constituencies and expressed confidence of winning. President Khama voted in Serowe North where his younger brother Tshekedi is defending his seat.

Leader of the official opposition, Mr Otsweleste Moupo, voted in Gaborone West North while BCP’s Gilson Saleshando cast his ballot in Selebi-Phikwe West.

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