Botswana’s President Mokgweetsi Masisi has ordered general elections on October 23, as tensions rise with his estranged predecessor, Ian Khama, the man who put him in the top job.
Khama, whose father led the southern African country to independence, has accused Masisi of becoming an autocrat and threatening the country’s reputation as a beacon of stability in a troubled continent.
Masisi has called for “the holding of the 2019 General Elections to fill the 57 National Assembly vacancies and 490 local government vacancies,” Osupile Maroba from the national election commission said late Friday.
The last date for nominations is September 26.
The country has been ruled by the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) uninterruptedly since it gained independence from Britain in 1966.
This year the BDP will come face to face with the opposition coalition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Another BDP splinter group, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), which is the brainchild of former president Khama, will also contest the elections in 19 constituencies mostly in the Central District, a Khama stronghold.
Khama ruled from 2008 to 2018 and handed power to his chosen successor Masisi after completing two terms — the maximum allowed by the constitution.
But he walked out of the party in May, saying: “The person who I nominated to be my successor, as soon as he took office became very autocratic, very intolerant and it has led to a decline in the democratic credentials that we have a reputation for.”
Since coming to office, Masisi changed several key policies adopted by Khama — the most high-profile being the lifting of the wildlife sports hunting ban imposed in 2014.
Botswana has the world’s largest elephant population with more than 135,000 roaming freely in its unfenced parks and wide-open spaces.