Botswana Goes to the Poll... As Voting Starts

Gaborone, Botswana — Polling for the 2019 General Elections in Botswana began on Wednesday with thousands of Batswana lining up to cast their ballots in this historic election.

A total of 1,273,880 people were registered to vote, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Botswana. Botswana has a population of about 2.2 million.

On the eve of the Election Day and even on the polling day, voters from different political parties could be seen talking to each other and mingling.

Botswana has set a three-day holiday, starting on election day, 23 October, until Friday, 25 October to ensure that all citizens are able to exercise their civic and political rights to vote, and have time to appreciate the results of the poll.

The country uses a single constituency electoral system of First-Past-The-Post for the election of Members of Parliament. Elected MPs then act as an electoral college to choose the President.

The Parliament of Botswana has 63 seats, of which 57 are filled through direct election. There are four seats reserved for the majority party in Parliament, while the President and Attorney-General are ex-officio members.

In this regard, the majority of seats as set out by the IEC is 29 out of the 57 available seats in the National Assembly.

Incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has clearly said a vote for the BDP is the "right move for the country."

"Batswana, the big day is almost here! While we have been unpacking our manifesto daily for the past two months... . a vote for the BDP is a vote for Botswana's future!" President Masisi said.

Masisi, who identifies himself as a new visionary leader for the ruling BDP, which has won all elections since independence in 1966 said all Batswana should maintain peace before, during and after the election.

President Masisi will contest against three other candidates -- Duma Boko of the main opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), Ndaba Gaolathe of the Alliance for Progressives, and Biggie Butale, a former cabinet minister who is leading the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF).

Butale has the support of former President Ian Khama and his brother Tshekedi who quit the ruling BDP to back his newly formed party.

Media reports say that the BPF has agreed to form a coalition with other opposition parties to support candidature of Boko for the presidency.

Ian Khama, who was president and leader of the BDP from 2008 to 2018, broke away from the ruling party after a fall-out with his successor and incumbent President Masisi, who did not want to continue "taking orders" from him.

Khama's father - Sir Seretse Khama - was the founding President of Botswana and the BDP.

In the last elections held in 2014, the BDP won 37 of the 57 elected seats, while the UDC won 17 and the Botswana Congress Party had three.

Local, regional and international organizations are observing the elections, including the SADC Electoral Observation Mission (SEOM).

The 55-member SEOM is headed by Dr. Sibusiso Moyo, Zimbabwe's Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The SEOM is in Botswana at the invitation of the IEC and its conduct will be consistent with the Constitution and electoral law of Botswana, and the provisions of the Revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.

As per tradition, the SEOM will issue a statement after the elections on the conduct of the poll.

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