Botswana elections set for 30 October
afrol News, 17 September - President Festus Mogae today set the date for Botswana's the general election for Saturday 30 October. Nomination of candidates for the poll must be registered within two weeks. President Mogae's Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has ruled since independence, is favourite to win the upcoming poll, thus paving the way for a second term for the incumbent President.
According to a statement by Jeff Ramsay, Press Secretary to the Batswana President, "the date for the general election has now been set for Saturday the 30th of October 2004." President Mogae further had directed that "the date of nomination for candidates for election shall be on the 4th of October 2004," according to the official statement from Gaborone.
The Batswana President on 3 September dissolved parliament in "a routine step" in anticipation of general elections. The now dissolved national assembly was elected for a five year term in October 1999, making it constitutionally necessary to organise new general elections.
While parties are only given two more weeks to present their candidates to the national election commission, this will not pose a problem. Both the ruling party and the opposition have already started their election campaigns in Botswana's 57 constituencies as candidates are presented to potential voters.
The ruling BDP is widely believed to be able to assure a new majority in the national assembly to be elected. In the 1999 poll, BDP had assured 54.2 percent of the votes. The main opposition party, the Botswana National Front (BNF), achieved only 24.6 percent of all votes, while smaller opposition parties shared the rest of the votes.
There are only small chances for the Batswana opposition to win the upcoming poll. The BDP in fact has been in power since independence in 1966, winning all polls in a democratic and fair way. The ruling party has managed to transform the former impoverished British colony into one of Africa's richest and most stable nations with a policy steering away from provoking conflicts. Voters have repeatedly appreciated these gains.
Also President Mogae's future depends on the upcoming parliamentary polls. Botswana's President is elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term. Thus Vice-President Mogae was appointed President when President Ketumile Masire resigned in 1998. He was thereupon elected by the BDP majority in the 1999-elected parliament for a five-year term.
The new parliament later this year will have to re-elect President Mogae or, if dominated by the opposition, unite behind another presidential candidate. President Mogae earlier this year said he would stand candidate for re-election, but the 65-year-old added that this also would be his last term.
The upcoming poll in Botswana is expected to be free and fair, as elections generally have been in the country. The only criticism against the 1999 poll was the preferential access to state-owned media for BDP candidates during most of the campaign. Media watchdogs during the last months have warned that the BDP government currently is taking stronger control over the editorial line of state media, possibly in preparation of the upcoming poll.
While everyone expects Botswana's Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to organise yet another free and fair election next month, the IEC nevertheless for the first time in the country's history has invited international bodies to observe the poll. Observers from the Southern African Development Community (SADC), the Commonwealth, EU, AU and the UN are expected to monitor the October poll exercise.
By staff writer
© afrol News
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