Voting underway in Botswana 2014 elections

OCTOBER 24, 2014

Close to a million people in Botswana have already started lining up at polling stations this morning in a nationwide election that will determine that country’s next president.

Political parties in Botswana were on Thursday in a last-minute gasp to convince the electorate to vote for them in Friday's national polls.

Motorcades around major towns and cities, choppers and political rallies characterised the eve of election day following an intense campaign period that led to what analysts have predicted to be the most closely contested elections in the history of the country since independence in 1966.

Parliamentary and council candidates were on Thursday evening preparing for night vigils with their followers as they waited to cast their votes on Friday morning.

Motorcades and car loudspeakers were heard all over the city into the late evening.

For this year’s election, the ruling Botswana Democratic party (BDP), which has been in power since independence, faces a stiff challenge from two main opposition parties, the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).

The BCP has grown in leaps and bounds since its formation in 1999 after it split from the then main opposition party, the Botswana National Front (BNF).

Political analysts have in the past blamed vote splitting among several opposition parties that stood for elections for failure to give the BDP any real challenge for leadership. Things, however, changed dramatically over the past few years as several MPs of the ruling party broke away in 2010 to form a new opposition party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD).

There are now three opposition parties represented in the country's 57 parliamentary seats, the BCP, BNF and BMD. The three opposition parties started dialogue in 2011 with a view to go for the 2014 polls under one banner to try to stop the BDP's 48-year rule.

Talks between the three parties fell apart as the BCP pulled away, leaving the BNF and the BMD. The two finally reached common ground and formed the UDC in early 2013.

The new party, however, encountered problems as its leadership was dragged before the courts on several occasions by disgruntled members of their mother parties, especially UDC President Duma Boko, who is also President of the BNF.

Just as the dust settled on the court battles, the party suffered a big misfortune when its deputy leader Gomolemo Motswaledi died in a car accident in July.

This was at the time when campaigns for the 2014 polls were about to reach their peak. The party, however, moved quickly to replace Motswaledi with young Ndaba Gaolathe as vice president and roped in a Phenyo Butale to replace him in the constituency of Gaborone Central.

Meanwhile, several other small political parties that have in the past contested elections independently also aligned themselves with the two major opposition parties, leaving only three parties going into the polls.

Several surveys done by different independent bodies, including the private media, had predicted a BDP win, though by a very small margin. –