Over 900,000 registered voters are expected to cast their ballots across the country to elect members of the national assembly and by extension the president of the southern African nation.
The government declared October 23 – 25 as public holidays to allow for full participation of citizens in the democratic process.
The vote caps a busy election year for the southern Africa region which has witnessed elections in South Africa, Malawi, DR Congo and earlier this month in Mozambique.
In this article, we will keep track of the voting and tallying process, until the official results are declared.
Botswana polls opened on Wednesday at 6:30 a.m. (0430 GMT) for a general election that is expected to provide the first genuine challenge to the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) in its five decades of dominance.
Of Botswana’s population of 2.2 million people, 924,000 registered voters will elect 57 national assembly and 490 local government representatives.Polls close at 7 p.m.
Campaigning on promises to drive that economic transformation, Duma Boko, leader of the Umbrella for Democratic Change, is hoping to unseat the BDP of President Mokgweetsi Masisi. He is backed by former president Ian Khama, who handed over to Masisi last year but has since fallen into a bitter power struggle with him.
“We remain resolute and confident that we are going to win this election,” Boko told a news conference on Monday night before warning of possible fraud.
“I can only accept the result if the election is free and credible,” he added, raising the spectre that Botswana, which has only known one-sided elections, could witness its first rancorous dispute over a tight result.
The main concerns for the Batswana are unemployment hovering at around 20% and stark inequalities despite equitable state spending on health and education. To tackle either, the winner will need to do more to diversify the economy.
Mbakisi Gopolang, 25, waiting in line to cast his vote at a primary school in the capital Gaborone, said he was disappointed by the last decade under the governing BDP.
“The last ten years have been regressive, so I don’t want continuation of that. I am voting for a party that will drive economic growth, empower citizens and get rid of corruption and bring about transparency.”
The polls have been described by analysts as unprecedented especially against the backdrop that the former president Ian Khama has thrown his weight behind two opposition presidential candidates.
All you need to know: Botswana’s crucial October 2019 polls
The Presidential bid will see President Eric Mokgweetsi Masisi battle it out with three other candidates.
Ndaba Gaolathe: Alliance for Progressives
Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi : Botswana Democratic Party
Biggie Butale: Botswana Patriotic Front
Duma Boko : Umbrella for Democratic Change
— Botswana Government (@BWGovernment) October 16, 2019
In the first few weeks of his mandate (April 2018), President Masisi dissociated himself from the legacy of his predecessor by denouncing and lifting the ban on hunting wild elephants.
The move and other policy positions led to cracks within the ruling party, a situation that analysts say could swing favour to the main opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change.
According to the opposition group, the ruling Botswana Democratic Party, has been in power for too long, and has not done enough to transform people’s lives.
Past reports point to the country’s vast diamond resources, facilitated access to free education and health.
The country has attempted to diversify its sources of economic growth from mining to banking and tourism, but unemployment remains at 20%.
Voters will therefore have to choose candidates of the party they believe can address unemployment, inequality and excessive dependence on missing diamonds.
The party that will have the largest number of elected representatives out of the 57 seats to be filled in the parliament, will choose the president. Results are expected in the coming days.