Botswana at the polls for general elections
Botswana has begun voting Wednesday for a general election that promises to be the most disputed in its history, to the point of threatening the undivided reign of the ruling party since independence more than half a century ago.
The 2,200 or so polling stations in the country opened their ballot boxes as early as 0630 (0430 GMT ). “We all want a chance to give our opinion,” said Chops Maswikiti, a 37-year-old banker who arrived at dawn to drop his ballot at the Tlogatloga school in the capital Gaborone.
Until then praised for its exemplary democratic practices and stability, this vast country of Southern Africa rich in diamonds and wild elephants is agitated by a fratricidal war between its current head of state and his predecessor.
Under the terms of the Constitution, Ian Khama handed Botswana’s reins 18 months ago to his vice president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, from the same Democratic Party of Botswana ( BDP ).
But since then, the cloth burns between the two men.
Last May, Mr. Khama even slammed the door of the BDP by accusing Mr. Masisi of authoritarian drift.
“I saw a threat to our democracy (…) we have leaders become drunk power,” said the former head of state in an interview.
This unprecedented frond undermines the dominant electoral position of the BDP , which had achieved the worst score in its history in the 2014 general election by falling below the symbolic mark of 50% of the vote.
The main opposition party, the Coalition for Democratic Change ( UDC ), hopes to pull the chestnuts out of the fire.
“The election looks very tight, his fate can swing in one direction as in the other,” summarized the Peter Fabricius analyst, the South African Institute for Security Studies ( ISS ).
Ian Khama spared no effort to harm his former party, including publicly calling for a vote for the SVP and its candidates in several parts of the country.
Son of the co-founder of the BDP and first president of the country Seretse Khama, the former head of state has kept powerful allies within the party and an undeniable influence in the country. He blames his successor for turning his back on his legacy, including lifting the ban on elephant hunting.
“He wanted to erase everything we put in place,” said Khama. “Our democracy is threatened by a tsunami in the same vein as what (Donald) Trump does in his country,” he added.
His rival Masisi is justified in explaining that the policy of his predecessor had damaged the image of the party in power and said he was persuaded to win.
“We are strong but not arrogant,” he said on Tuesday as he closed his campaign in front of a thousand supporters gathered in his home village of Moshupa. “I hope tomorrow a brilliant demonstration of confidence”.
The head of the UDC , Duma Boko, is convinced that the time of alternation has finally come. “I think we will win this election,” he predicted.
With a Gross Domestic Product ( GDP ) per capita of more than $ 8,000 largely fed by its diamonds, Botswana is one of the richest countries on the continent. But it is also one of the most unequal, with an unemployment rate of 18%.
Unlike other neighboring countries, the importance of the issues should not, however, threaten the stability of Botswana.
Mokgweetsi Masisi promised to respect the verdict of the polls. “If the unexpected happens and we are not winners, I will quietly pack my bags and go home,” he said on Tuesday, “the rule of law prevails for all in Botswana and I ‘I am very attached to it’
The ballot for the election of the 57 deputies of Parliament was to continue until 19:00 (17:00 GMT ). The party that wins the majority will then choose the president of the country.
The results are expected by the end of the week.