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Botswana Elections Start with Strong Turnout


An elderly woman votes in Botswana's general elections in Moshupa, some 45kms (30 miles) West of Gaborone, Wednesday, Oct. 23, 2019.

Long queues marked the start of voting Wednesday in Botswana's closely contested general election.

Some voters were in line as early as 3 a.m. to cast their vote, with polling stations opening three hours later.

Independent Electoral Commission public relations officer Otsile Maroba said voting began without any major incidents, but some polling stations opened later than the scheduled time.

"Everything has started well, even though we have some ... polling stations that opened later than 6:30 a.m., owing to logistical challenges. So far, quite a number of polling stations are experiencing a large turnout," Maroba said.

A woman talks to other voters while waiting in a queue to vote at a polling station in Gaborone, Botswana, Oct. 23, 2019.
A woman talks to other voters while waiting in a queue to vote at a polling station in Gaborone, Botswana, Oct. 23, 2019.

Siboneni Phepheng voted for the first time Wednesday.

"I just voted and I want to appreciate the ways things went," she said. "The queues were long, yes, but it was peaceful, things were done in an orderly manner."

Gaborone resident Dikarabo Ramadobu was also happy with the way voting proceeded, in sharp contrast to what was an abrasive campaign.

"I am very impressed with the conduct of my fellow citizens," Ramadobu said. "If you rewind the clock and think of when they were still campaigning, there were all sorts statements made across the board, but today there is so much cooperation."

The pre-election period had been marred by bitter exchanges among rival parties.

The opposition coalition, the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), had questioned the integrity of the process, citing the meddling of government agencies in the elections.

UDC president Duma Boko, after casting his vote in Gaborone on Wednesday morning, told reporters the process had been smooth.

"For me, it was a very smooth process and I hope it is as smooth for everybody as it was for me," he said. "We will see as the day goes by and we will keep track of what is happening."

His main rival, incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi, voted in his home village, Moshupa, just outside Gaborone.

Former President Ian Khama, who formed an opposition party, the Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF), cast his vote in the country's key Central District.

Polling stations close at 7 p.m. local time, with full results expected Friday. The country has 925,000 registered voters, who will vote for 57 members of the National Assembly. The winning party will pick the country's next president.