Gaborone - Botswana High Court has accepted four nominations for presidential candidates who will contest the country's tightly contested election billed for October 23.
They include incumbent President Mokgweetsi Masisi of the Botswana Democratic Party, Duma Boko of the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change, Biggie Butale of the newly formed Botswana Patriotic Front, and Ndaba Gaolathe of the Alliance for Progressives.
Initially, it was expected that there will be six candidates, but the High Court only confirmed four but Botswana Movement for Democratic President Sidney Pilane and Real Alliance for Progressives, Gaontebale Mokgosi did not comply with the Electoral Act.
Botswana Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane declared that Masisi, Boko, Butale and Gallagher had been validly nominated as candidates for the presidential elections in terms of Section 5 of the Electoral Act.
He added that he had submitted the nominations to the Independent Electoral Commission, marking the official kick-off of the presidential race.
Botswana is heading to the polls on October 23 in what is expected to be one of the fiercely contested polls since the country gained independence from Britain in 1966.
The ruling BDP is confident that it will retain power while the opposition coalition believes that it will wrestle power from the ruling party. The BDP is currently “limping” after former President Ian Khama and other former high profile members quit the party to form the Botswana Patriotic Front.
Masisi has since announced that he will quit as president of the party should it lose to opposition. He made the announcement amid a decision by Khama to decampaign the ruling party after a fall out with his chosen successor over governance issues.
Khama has since declared his support for opposition parties and he continues to camapign for some of the opposition candidates. On the other hand, the Umbrella for Democratic Change, was also dealt a hard blow when one of the contracting partners, Botswana Movement for Democracy, split resulting in the formation of the Alliance for Progressives which is now contesting the elections outside the coalition. Botswana Movement for Democracy has since been fired from the coalition and it is contesting the election outside the coalition.
Commenting on the upcoming general election, former University of Botswana lecture Professor Zibani Maundeni agrees that the result of elections are likely to go either way.
He is of the view that the opposition is likely to benefit from Khama's influence especially in the central part of the country which is a strong hold of the ruling party. "But his presence within the opposition could also swing voters in urban areas who believe that he wants to rule through the back door to the ruling party. It's a dicey situation,” he observed.