Gaborone — THE official announcement of the date for general elections in Botswana has paved way for way for what points to the most grueling contest for power in a country widely lauded as Africa's model of democracy.
Polls have been confirmed for October 23.
Sharp divisions within the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) after a fallout between the incumbent, President Mokgweetsi Masisi, and his predecessor, Ian Khama, have dominated the run-up to the poll.
After surviving what many even in the party had feared would be a split-which would have been the second in nine years- the governing party is still projected to retain power it has held since independence from Britain in 1996.
Never in the history of polls has the BDP, founded five years prior to independence, been so vulnerable, especially after Khama infamously walked out of the party his father and first Botswana President, Seretse Khama (now late), co-founded in Lobatse, 70 kilometres south of the capital Lobatse.
He has thrown his weight behind the recently-formed Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), which alongside opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), of which another BDP splinter, Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), is a part, will seek to challenge Masisi's party.
"The election is too close to call. For the first time since 1965, despite having a slight edge, BDP has no guarantee of electoral victory," the think-tank, Africa Report stated.
Some analysts have predicted the upcoming elections could result in a coalition government for the former Bechuanaland that is accustomed to a single government since the advent of democracy.
Eric Mosweu however argued that would not be the case but the BDP's share of votes could be diminished.
BDP secured 46,5 percent of the vote in 2014. At the first polls at independence, it had 80,4 percent.
The 2014 outcome was attributed to the formation of the BMD in 2010.
"The ructions within the ruling party will further erode its share. Having Khama on the other side of the contest will without doubt sway some voters towards the BFF, at the expense of the ruling party.
However, the ruling party is widely tipped to retain power with a reduced majority, Mosweu stated.
The ruling party's manifesto is premised on advancing an inclusive economy in one of the world's leading diamond producers.
Slumber Tsogwane, BDP chairman, pledged the government's commitment to diversify the economy from an over-reliance on diamonds.
Over 800 000 Batswana are expected to vote.