Khama’s Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), in power since independence from Britain in 1966, said it had secured a majority of the parliamentary constituencies.
“We have reached the 29 out of the 57,” Langston Motsete, a member of the BDP’s election committee, told Reuters.
Botswana’s state radio confirmed the win while Independent Electoral Commission spokesman Oscar Maroba said final results would be announced late on Saturday.
Maroba said counting in 31 of the 57 constituencies had been completed, with the BDP winning 25 and main opposition party Botswana National Front and its splinter party Botswana Congress Party capturing 3 constituencies each.
“One would safely assume that they (BDP) would win half the remaining constituencies, which would help them to achieve the required absolute majority,” Maroba said.
The BDP had been expected to retain control over the southern African nation in the parliamentary and presidential elections held on Friday, despite frustration over a recession and infighting in the party.
Botswana’s Vice President Mompati Merafhe told Reuters the ruling party was ready to tackle its internal divisions and said education and job creation remained its main challenges.
“We are ready because we are coming back with a very strong mandate, as the figures would have indicated to you,” he said.
“The recession is a worldwide phenomenon, so it’s not for Botswana as a single entity to try and give an undertaking that we will come out of it.”
INFIGHTING ERODES BDP SUPPORT
Botswana has been hit hard as a global economic slowdown cuts demand for diamonds, which account for close to 40 percent of the economy. The landlocked country has sunk into debt and gross domestic product is forecast to shrink 10 percent.
However, investors regard it as one of Africa’s best-run countries with a history of budget surpluses and the region’s strongest currency, a sharp contrast to neighbouring Zimbabwe, which is crippled by political and economic turmoil.
Botswana’s Khama is one of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe’s fiercest critics and told South Africa’s Financial Mail weekly earlier this week a power-sharing arrangement in Zimbabwe was an affront to democracy.
Despite its popularity, the BDP has seen some of its support wane because of fierce infighting, notably between Khama and the party’s secretary general, Gomolemo Motswaledi, whom he suspended for allegedly undermining his authority.
The row has intensified charges of autocracy and populism against Khama, son of the country’s first president and a British-trained army lieutenant-general who has said politics was never his first choice of career. He has dismissed suggestions that infighting could hurt his party.
Opposition BNF does not have enough grassroots support to provide a challenge and looked set to be dethroned as the main opposition by its splinter party, the BCP.
“The BCP is more stable. They didn’t have conflicts like we and the BDP … that’s what gave them the advantage — the voters felt that they should give them a chance because they are a stable party,” BNF council candidate John Bogotsu told Reuters.
The BDP won 77.2 percent of the vote in the last election in 2004. In the recently dissolved parliament, it held 44 seats while the BNF had 12 and the BCP had 1.
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