Election drama comes to the boil: Botswana, Africa's most stable country, goes to the polls in October but this time, the elections will be anything but a routine triumphal march for the ruling party, the Botswana Democratic Party.

Author:Makgekgenene, Ale-esi
Position:Around Africa: Botswana
 
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Botswana is celebrated as one of the oldest democracies in Africa and a model for the African continent. The country's politics, despite several undercurrents, are uniquely in Africa, generally devoid of drama. It has also had, until a few years ago, an enviable record in terms of [he lack of corruption and its leaders have usually been understated rather than florid.

Botswana has also been ruled for over half a century by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has developed a well-oiled machinery that it uses election after election. The transition from one administration to another (presidential terms are limited to two five-year terms) has always been smooth and well co-ordinated.

It has been a tradition for the BDP that the incumbent President vacates his seat some 18 months before the end of his second term in office. The Deputy President, carefully handpicked by the BDP elite, then steps in as interim President and has a year and a half to both ease into the job and also use the advantages of incumbency to campaign for the elections at the end of the five-year term.

The President is elected by the National Assembly so victory in the general elections guarantees that the interim President becomes the de jure national leader.

But this time around, it seems that the well-oiled machinery may slip off its tracks and the BDP's stranglehold on the country's politics may be weakening.

The BDP's problems are mostly self-inflicted. The party is more divided than ever before in its history and its coffers, reportedly buoyed by various Israeli interests, are virtually empty.

More damaging has been the bitter falling-out between the immediate former President, Ian Khama and his chosen successor and incumbent President, Mokgweetsi Masisi.

Approaching the end of the constitutional maximum of 10 years in office, Ian Khama stepped down with 18 months still to go to the next general election and handed over power in April 2018 to Mokgweetsi Masisi, who was then his deputy.

But instead of taking a back seat, as is usual in these cases, Ian Khama has weighed into Masisi. Khama has accused Masisi of becoming an autocrat and threatening the country's reputation as a beacon of stability in Africa.

He stated that he took the "very painful" decision to leave the BDP because of the "immature and arrogant" attitude of President Mokgweetsi Masisi's government.

"The person who I nominated to be my successor, as soon as he took office became very autocratic...

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