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Botswana votes in diamond crunch

Ian Khama

Ian Khama

Voters in Botswana are going to the polls amid a deep recession in the world’s largest diamond producer. The global slowdown means gem sales have fallen and some Botswana diamond mines closed earlier this year.

However, President Ian Khama is expected to be returned to office as the opposition is divided. Botswana is seen as one of Africa’s most stable and democratic countries, even though only one party has been in power since independence in 1966.

The son of Botswana’s first president, Mr Khama faces his first democratic test since becoming Botswana Democratic Party leader some 18 months ago. He is credited with being decisive but also criticised for being dogmatic.

BBC southern Africa correspondent Karen Allen says Botswana’s over-dependence on diamonds for its export earnings and tax revenues, as well as jobs and human rights will all be issues that influence voters.

Recent moves to slap a 30% levy on alcohol, clamp down on the media and impose strict discipline on party dissidents has led to criticism that President Khama is too authoritarian, our correspondent adds.

Mr Khama, 56, has roundly dismissed the charges, and says he is just a man motivated by delivery. Splits within the ruling party are expected to see its overall support base decline, but the opposition is equally fractured.

Mr Khama’s Botswana Democratic Party won 44 of the 57 seats at the last election in 2004. The other seats were won by the main opposition Botswana National Front and the Botswana Congress Party. A party needs at least 29 seats to be able to choose the president. Some 725,000 voters are registered from a population of 1.9 million people.

Source: GBC NEWS

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