The president of diamond-rich Botswana will be sworn in for a second term on Tuesday, after seeing off the fiercest challenge yet to his party’s half century of unbroken rule.
The government said 61-year-old Ian Khama will take the oath of office before the country’s Chief Justice, days after the ex-military man’s Botswana Democratic Party won a comfortable parliamentary majority.
The BDP has ruled Botswana since independence in 1966, taking the country from abject poverty to one of the most prosperous and stable countries on the continent.
That economic record was enough to help Khama see off a stern challenge from opposition parties, who managed to reduce his BDP’s tally by eight seats to 37.
The coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change won 17 seats to become the country’s main opposition party, after making inroads in urban areas. Fifty-seven of 61 seats in parliament are elected with four more picked by the president.
“The UDC did well for a new party, but naturally we were hoping for more votes to topple the BDP. It was never to be,” said Seakamela Motsoaledi, a UDC party representative.
Falling diamond revenues
Although seen as one of Africa’s success stories, Botswana has recorded rising unemployment since 2009 as the global economic crisis sent diamond prices falling.
A drop in diamond revenues had forced Khama’s government to halt planned investments in recent years.
During the election campaign, Khama admitted the failure of his government to stop unemployment rates from rising.
Among key challenges that he faces is the task of diversifying the country’s economy.
International observers were satisfied that the polls had been free, although questions were raised over election funding and the poor representation of female candidates in the party lists.
Regional blocs, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union (AU), said the election had been “credible and reflecting the will of the people. ”
Inadequate voter education
“Botswana remains unique in Africa in that it has enjoyed 48 years of sustained and uninterrupted democracy,” said the SADC mission.
However, the mission noted the inadequate voter education ahead of the polls, due to a lack of funding.
The SADC also urged the authorities to encourage the participation of women in a vote dominated by male candidates.
The AU called on Botswana to provide public funding of political parties to “ensure fairness during the electoral process and improve fairness.”
“We are aware that not many countries in Africa can afford to provide funding for political parties, but this is part of the AU statutes,” said Joyce Banda, the AU head of observer mission and former president of Malawi.
Khama, an army lieutenant general, is the son of the country’s first president, Seretse Khama