from ODIRILE TOTENG in Gaborone, Botswana
GABORONE, (CAJ News) – “As the President of Botswana for the next five years, I am blessed and privileged to serve you and promise that I will continue to do so with integrity, compassion, humility and honesty.”
Incumbent, Dr Mokgweetsi Masisi (58), was humble in victory moments after Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane declared him as the elected president following polls that put to test the Southern African country’s reputation as a model of democracy and stability in Africa while threatening to end the ruling party’s more than 50-year dominance.
Securing more than 51 percent of the general elections after polls held on Wednesday, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), in power since independence from Britain in 1966, defied projections that this would be a closely-fought battle and its dominance in Parliament would be eroded after months of infighting in the wake of a fallout between Masisi and his predecessor, Seretse Khama Ian Khama
BDP was already in untenable position before the elections, having seen its dominance slide to 47 percent during the last poll in 2014.
Friday’s announcement by Rannowane, who according to the constitution was the convener of the elections, the party attained the 29 constituencies out of 57 required to form a government.
The Boteti west parliamentary seat sealed the deal for Masisi’s party.
“I am humbled and honoured that you (electorate) again entrusted the BDP,” Masisi, handpicked by Khama as his successor in April last year, said.
At the time of publication, its closest rival, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) had secured 12 seats.
New kid on the block, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), which Khama backed amid his widening rift with the governing party he quit, had garnered three.
The Alliance of Progressives had a single seat.
“Although vote counting is still ongoing, the numbers of parliament seats attained so far by the BDP obliges me to declare Mokgweetsi Masisi as the elected president of Botswana,” Rannowane declared.
Kenya’s President, Uhuru Kenyatta, was among the first leaders to congratulate Masisi and BDP.
He hailed the win as a vote of confidence by the people of Botswana in Masisi’s leadership.
BDP’s campaign was premised on building a more inclusive economy and diversifying it from an over-reliance of diamonds.
The services sector emerged as promising source of driving diversity and is tipped to contribute to spur economic growth projected at 4,3 percent in 2019 and 4,6 percent in the following year (2020).
Poverty and unemployment remain prevalent despite the growth prospects.
According to the World Bank, half of Botswana’s population of over 2 million remains either poor or vulnerable.
“The ruling party must prioritise on such issues ahead of putting its house in order after months of infighting,” said analyst, Eric Setlhare.
He described BDP’s and Masisi’s wins as a blow for Khama.
“The victories are an epitaph to Khama’s political influence, although his new party’s debut at polls was satisfactory,” Setlhare said.
Botswana has been hailed as one of the continent’s most stable democracies. Masisi is the fifth-elected president.
Both Southern African Development Community (SADC) region and African Union (AU) endorsed the election outcome as free and fair.
– CAJ News