Botswana’s ruling party has won majority seats in the country’s parliament, putting President Ian Khama at the helm for a second five-year term.
High Court Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo said in a statement on Sunday that Khama “has been re-elected as the President of the Republic after his political party, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) garnered at least 29 of the 57 parliamentary seats” at Friday’s general election.
But the opposition coaltion managed to reduce the majority of Khama’s party, which has ruled the diamond-producing nation since independence from Britain 48 years ago.
Parliament elects the president, and it is expected that Khama will win a second term, but with a reduced majority. In the previous elections in 2009, BDP won 79 percent of the seats.
Observer missions from the regional Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Commonwealth and the European Union were expected to report officially on the vote later.
South Africa’s High Commissioner to Gaborone, Mdu Lembede, one of the observers, told a local news agency that the polls were “peaceful”.
The landlocked, diamond-rich southern African country of two million people is seen as one of the continent’s strongest democracies, and Friday’s vote saw a high turnout of the 800,000 registered voters.
Khama, 61, is the son of the country’s first president, Seretse Khama. He is also a traditional chief of the Bangwato clan and counts on strong rural support.
But he faced a challenge in urban areas, where opposition parties have made inroads since the formation in 2010 of a breakaway party, the Botswana Movement for Democracy, which is now part of an umbrella opposition coalition known as UDC.
Many young voters said they wanted change because unemployment was high and living standards low.
Despite Botswana’s relatively solid economic performance during the global financial crisis, Khama was aware of the discontent and ran on a platform of change.
With the global financial crisis leading to a drop in diamond revenues, Khama’s government halted planned investment, leading to growing unemployment and slow progress in diversifying the economy.
The opposition Botswana Congress Party, which is led by Dumelang Saleshando, is the fastest growing party in the country, according to an Afrobarometer report issued last week.
The Umbrella for Democratic Change coalition (UDC) is headed by Duma Boko, who has accused Khama of being increasingly authoritarian.