GABORONE (Reuters) - Botswana’s ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) secured 33 of 57 parliament seats in national elections, initial results showed, putting President Ian Khama at the helm for a second five-year term.
Residents of the southern African nation, who voted on Friday, re-elected the BDP party that has ruled the diamond-producing country since independence from Britain 48 years ago.
Provisional results show the BDP’s main rival, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), with 14 seats and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) with two seats.
Eight seats were yet to be declared. This will be Botswana’s most closely contested election, and is likely to see the BDP’s majority sharply reduced from the 79 percent of seats it won in the 2009 election.
President Khama’s party still enjoys the support of a generation of voters won over with high spending on education and welfare benefits. However, there is growing discontent among younger voters and the urban middle class who say change is due after nearly five decades of BDP rule.
Although Botswana is often seen as one of Africa’s most stable and democratic nations, economic growth has slowed as demand for diamonds decreases, and unemployment is about 20 percent.
Khama has drawn criticism for forcing eviction of bushmen from their traditional hunting grounds in the Kalahari Desert and for introducing an unpopular 50 percent tax on alcohol.
The 61-year-old president has said only the BDP is competent enough to rule, and pledged to create jobs and improve water and electricity supply if given another term in office.
Last week, Botswana’s sole power station broke down, forcing it to rely on electricity from neighbouring South Africa.
Reporting by Xola Potelwa; Editing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Borsuk