Voting starts in Botswana's general election

Friday, October 16, 2009

Gaborone - Voting started on Friday in Botswana's 10th general elections which is expected to see the ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) remain in power.

Botswana, a southern African country of some two million people, has around 725,000 registered voters, while seven political parties and 15 independent candidates are competing for the nation's 57 constituencies.

The election is widely seen as a race between the ruling BDP and main opposition Botswana National Front. The ruling BDP, having been in power for over four decades, is expected to secure yet another new term.

Head of the BDP, President Ian Khama, is facing his first election since taking power from Festus Mogae in 2008. The 56-year-old president is the son of Botswana's founding father Seretse Khama.

Botswana is among the African continent's most stable countries, relatively free of corruption. It is also among the world's biggest diamond producers and protects some of the continent's largest areas of wilderness.

The country has maintained one of the world's highest growth rates since independence in 1966.

It has transformed itself from one of the poorest countries in the world to a middle-income country.

Diamond mining has fueled much of the economic expansion and currently accounts for about one-third of GDP.

However, Botswana has been hit very hard by the AIDS pandemic. It has one of the world's highest known rates of HIV and AIDS infection.

It is also one of the African countries with the most progressive and comprehensive programs for dealing with the disease.