Botswana votes as president seeks second term

AP News
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Posted: Oct 24, 2014 11:41 AM
Botswana votes as president seeks second term

GABORONE, Botswana (AP) — People in Botswana voted Friday in schools, churches and military tents in an election in which the ruling party faces growing opposition to its decades-old dominance in the southern African nation.

Long lines of voters waited to cast their ballots. They were barred from wearing clothing with party symbols or chanting political slogans near the 2,600 polling stations.

President Ian Khama, a retired army general and the son of independence leader Seretse Khama, is seeking re-election on a platform of economic stability and efforts to alleviate persistent poverty. He has also promised to bring down Botswana's high unemployment, but the president has become increasingly unpopular with the country's unions after he proposed stricter labor laws.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party has strong support in rural areas. Opposition parties, however, hoped to sway dissatisfied voters in urban areas.

"This election is very competitive," said Dumelang Saleshando, the leader of the opposition Botswana Congress Party.

Over half of Botswana's 2 million people live in rural areas where diamond mining, tourism and agriculture are the main sources of income. The sparsely populated country is largely covered by the Kalahari Desert. Botswana is roughly the size of the African island nation of Madagascar or just smaller than the state of Texas.