Southern African News Features                                           SANF 09 No 34, October 2009
SADC election observers applaud Botswana elections

Election observers from southern Africa have said Botswana’s elections were in conformity with regional standards and principles.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) Election Observer Mission (SEOM) said the elections were conducted in compliance with the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections adopted by SADC Member States.

"We are happy with the elections," the head of the 88-member SEOM delegation, Francisco Madeira, told the media.

"We have not received any complaints of intimidation from any of the political parties," Madeira, who is the Minister of Diplomatic Affairs in the Office of the President of Mozambique.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) led by President Seretse Khama Ian Khama was re-elected for the next five years with 45 out of a total of 57 parliamentary seats and representing a 53.26 percent of the popular vote, according the Independent Electoral Commission. The BDP has not lost an election since independence in 1966.

The Botswana National Front (BNF) secured six seats while the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) had four with its coalition partner, the Botswana Alliance Movement, wining one. The other seat went to an independent candidate.

The 25-member African Union observer mission, led by Brigalia Bam, said that Batswana voted in a peaceful and orderly manner.

Bam, who is Chairperson of the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa, said election officials, party agents and security personnel worked together in a harmonious and collaborative way that was helpful to the process.

The majority of voters who turned out were able to vote, she said, with only a few turned away due to invalid identification papers and voters cards.

"The patience and the level of tolerance by the people of Botswana extremely impressed us and the fact that despite police presence, there was no firearm at polling stations to intimidate voters," Bam said in a preliminary statement, adding that voters showed political maturity and the outcome of elections reflected the wishes and aspirations of the majority of the people of Botswana.

"In the light of the observations made by the AU observer mission to Botswana, the mission has come to the conclusion that the 2009 parliamentary and local government elections were organized and conducted in accordance with the constitution and electoral laws of Botswana."

On election day, 16 October, 544, 647 Batswana cast their ballots to choose new members of Parliament. A total of 725, 258 people had registered to take part in the polls. Botswana has a population of about 1.8 million.

In the previous elections in 2004, the BDP won 44 seats, BNF and BCP had 12 and one seat respectively.

The party that wins the most seats in Parliament forms the new government and the Parliament acts as an electoral college to elect the President, in this case, the BDP leader, Seretse Khama Ian Khama.

Khama, the son of Botswana's founding father and first President, Seretse Khama took over the leadership of the BDP last year when his predecessor and former President Festus Mogae retired in April 2008.

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