Botswana's ruling party favored in elections

AP News
Posted: Oct 23, 2014 8:15 AM

GABORONE, Botswana (AP) — The ruling party in Botswana, which has dominated politics since independence in 1966, is again the front-runner ahead of elections Friday in the southern African nation.

However, opposition parties have been trying to capitalize on discontent among unions and other sectors of society, and they say the vote will be one of Botswana's most contested.

There are 824,000 registered voters in Botswana. About 2,600 polling stations will open Friday around the country, according to election officials.

Botswana touts its reputation as one of the most stable and cleanly governed nations on the continent, but poverty and unemployment pose challenges in the diamond-rich country of 2 million.

The head of the ruling Botswana Democratic Party is President Ian Khama, a former military commander and son of independence leader Seretse Khama. The political opposition has accused the president of an increasingly authoritarian style in the multi-party democracy, an allegation that Khama denies.

In 2009 elections, the ruling party won 45 of 57 directly elected parliamentary seats but won the popular vote by a smaller margin with 53.3 percent, leading fractious opposition groups to complain they were inadequately represented.

Joyce Banda, a former president of Malawi, is leading an African Union observer mission during Botswana's elections.