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Botswana Ruling Party Wins Election by Landslide

The party that has governed Botswana for the past 38 years has won another election by a landslide. The Botswana Democratic Party has taken 38 of the 50 parliamentary seats that have been declared so far, leaving just 12 seats for the two main opposition parties. Results for the remaining seven have not yet been announced.

The Botswana Democratic Party's landslide victory at the polls means a second term for incumbent President Festus Mogae. His inauguration ceremony is scheduled for Tuesday.

A party spokesman calls it a "fresh mandate" for the Botswana Democratic Party, and a demonstration of the trust that the people of Botswana have in the party, which has ruled the country since independence from Britain in 1966.

The two main opposition parties appeared to have split the vote in several constituencies, allowing the Botswana Democratic Party to win a few seats in places where it got less than 50 percent of the votes.

Most of the seats won by the opposition went to the coalition headed by the Botswana National Front. A newer party, the Botswana Congress Party, refused to join the coalition and so far has managed to win just one seat.

The two groups are now blaming each other for splitting the opposition vote, handing an even wider margin of victory to the ruling party. The Botswana Congress Party acknowledges that they would have won several more seats if they had worked together.

In a statement broadcast on South African state radio, Botswana National Front Secretary-General Akanyang Magama criticized the rival party.

"The BCP should take responsibility about what has happened now," he said. "Because prior to the elections, we invited all the opposition parties, including the BCP, to form a united front and oppose the BDP. But they refused. They said they were going to win on their own. And given their performance now, they should take the blame for what has happened, not the BNF."

The newly re-elected president, Mr. Mogae, is an Oxford-educated economist who has won praise in the international community for his aggressive approach to fighting HIV/AIDS. Botswana has one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world, at 37 percent. It was the first African country to start providing free anti-retroviral drugs, which can allow many people with AIDS to live longer and lead more productive lives.

Botswana has long been one of the most stable democracies in sub-Saharan Africa. The diamond-rich nation has enjoyed 38 years of uninterrupted multi-party democracy. But regional election specialists are recommending some changes to Botswana's electoral system, to allow better representation of minority parties and women in parliament.

The opposition parties were hoping to block the re-appointment of Vice President Ian Khama, a former army chief and son of Botswana's first president. But with such a tiny minority in parliament, it is unlikely that they will be able to do so.

Mr. Khama is widely seen as the likely choice to succeed Mr. Mogae as president in five years.