Khama wins second term as Botswana's BDP becomes Africa's, and one of the world's, longest-ruling democratic parties

In a growing sign of the weariness over the BDP's domination of power, the opposition warned of authoritarian tendencies.

BOTSWANA President Ian Khama has won a second term in power after his party secured a parliamentary majority at the polls, an official announced Sunday.

High Court Chief Justice Maruping Dibotelo said in a statement 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.

Khama will be inaugurated on Monday, said Dibotelo in a statement broadcast on national radio and television.

Significantly, with the victory, the BDP which has been in power since independence in 1966 becomes Africa’s, and one of the world’s, longest ruling democratic parties.

Long rule

The Institutional Revolutionary Party (Spanish: Partido Revolucionario Institucional, PRI) held power in Mexicois for a record  71 years before it lost elections in 2000, but it was an authoritarian party for most of its time in power, not democratic in the classic sense of allowing real competition despite ibeing dominant.

In 2008, Paraguay’s Colorado Party lost power after 61 years, but it regained the presidency in the 2013 presidential election.

However, from 1947 until 1962, the Colorado Party ruled Paraguay as a one-party state; all other political parties were illegal. In that sense, then, it didn’t have a consistent unbroken record, leaving the BCP as perhaps more deserving of the longevity crown.

The newly formed Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), led by Duma Boko, which was contesting elections for the first time becomes the official opposition with 12 seats in parliament. In a growing sign of the weariness of the BCP’s grip on power, the UDC has accused Khama of becoming increasingly authoritarian.

However, despite Khama’s often bristly and arrogant style, analysts say it is unlikely the BDP will close down the democratic space in the country, because it is entrenched enough to continue winning for the foreseeable future. Also, with a population of 2 million and its wealth, the government has the means to offer social bribery to the electorate for a long time.

President and chief

Khama, 61, is the son of the country’s first president, Seretse Khama. He is also a traditional chief of the Bangwato clan and benefited from his 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 (BMD), which is now part of the UDC coalition.

No celebrations took place in the streets of Gaborone after the announcement of the results in the early hours of Sunday morning.

Full results are yet to be published and scores of people, particularly UDC supporters, were still eagerly gathered at counting stations.

The umbrella grouping won seats in several former BDP strongholds, including the capital Gaborone.

“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.

The BDP had cautioned that this year’s election would be the most challenging for the party.

Khama’s is faced with the task of diversifying the economy of the diamond-rich southern African nation and improving the lives of the 2 million population.

With the global financial crisis leading to a drop in diamond revenues, Khama’s government had halted planned investment, leading to growing unemployment, in a country known as one of Africa’s most stable democracies.

He had ran an election campaign based on the country’s past economic successes, pointing at the progress made in health care provision and good governance.

Former opposition Botswana Congress Party took two seats. Electoral authorities said tallying of local council ballots was still ongoing, in an election where some 800,000 people were registered to vote.

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