...And Breathe:A Look Back At The 2019 Botswana General Elections

Early this morning, after well over a day of parliamentary results trickling in from all across the country, the Chief Justice Terrence Rannowane announced that Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)— under the leadership of Masisi— were the winners of this year's general elections after garnering the required minimum of 29 parliamentary seats to form a majority representation of more than 51% in the country's highest legislative body.

This year's elections, both before and after casting of ballots, were the most interesting that the country has ever witnessed in its 53 years of democratic independence. Going into the elections— the BDP who have been in power since the dawn of the country's independence in 1966—faced their toughest election campaign to date.

After passing on the presidency baton to his successor Masisi, former president Ian Khama launched a campaign whose mission was to ensure that the BDP—which was co-founded by his father in the 1960s— did not get voted into governance. The reasons he cited for this decision was the supposed "betrayal" by Masisi which he say was fueled by the latter's supposed power trip after ascending to the country's highest public office.

To achieve that mission— SKI as he is commonly known— formed a splinter party from the BDP called Botswana Patriotic Front (BPF). SKI brought along to the BPF several BDP stalwarts including his brother Tshekedi Khama who had left the BDP a few weeks prior to the general elections, leaving Masisi and the BDP to scramble for their replacements whilst also having to focus on executing an effective campaign trail.

Apart from a bitter and very powerful former comrade in the form of Khama, Masisi and the BDP had another challenge to thwart, the Umbrella for Democratic (UDC) under the leadership of Advocate Duma Boko. The UDC, which is a coalition between several of the country's opposition parties, had been a major headache for the BDP in the 2014 elections and judging by their pre-election popularity, they were proving to be even more of a headache in 2019.

To make the situation even dire for Masisi and his party, the UDC had an ace up their sleeve—or so they thought— in the form of endorsements of some of their candidates by SKI. Wielding much influence over the country's electorate in the North because of his title as the paramount chief of Bangwato, SKI publicly encouraged his subjects to vote for the UDC candidates where his BPF was not contesting.

The Alliance for Progressives—led by Ndaba Gaolathe who is the son of the country's former Minister of Finance Baledzi Gaolathe—completed a long list of the BDP's many challenges heading to the polls in 2019. The AP had come about as a result of a factional tussle within the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD) which was a member of the opposition coalition under the UDC. The party had been gaining much popularity amongst the electorate over the months before the polls and was slated to be the kingmaker in the main fight between the BDP and the UDC.

Taking into consideration all these pre-election happenings, many of the country's political experts and the general population predicted that this year's elections were going to be the closest in the country's history—with some even going as far as predicting a hung parliament outcome —but Batswana had a different idea.

As the local government results were pouring in from all across the country in the early morning yesterday, it became apparent that the BDP was not going to allow the opposition to walk all over them despite their wounded gazelle status. Although it is difficult to predict the trajectory of parliamentary results based on the local government ones, it became clear that the BDP still had a whole lot of fight left in them.

Apart from the UDC which was proving to be a nuisance for the BDP up north, no other opposition seemed to offer much of a challenge as the parliamentary results began trickling in. The BDP was in fact—to most people's surprise—taking ahold of southern constituencies including the capital Gaborone which had been the opposition's stronghold from the 2014 elections.

When the provisional results showed that the opposition's presidential hopefuls Boko and Gaolathe were looking likely to not even be able to make it to the halls of parliament much less the State House, it started to become clear that not only did the BDP have a fight in them,they were sweeping the floor with the opposition and putting most people's predictions to shame.

As the day went on and results started coming in thick and fast, the supposed "race" to 29 parliamentary seats was becoming more of a walk in the park for Domkrag, as the BDP is colloquially known. The BDP was painting the town red and leaving the UDC with quite the blues. By the time BDP were at 15 seats, the UDC was still at 5 and when Domkrag were at 24 seats, the UDC was still straddling in the single digits zone with 9 seats and the question is most people's minds was no longer if the BDP were going to come out victorious but by how many seats.

38 was the answer, with the UDC following not-so-closely behind with 15 seats, the BPF with 3 and the AP with only 1. To add insult to the opposition's already horrendous injury, the BDP also increased their popular vote margin from 46% in 2014 to 48% . As if that was not embarrassing enough, all the leaders of the main opposition parties lost their constituencies to BDP candidates, a fact that wrapped up a rather dismal general election campaign for the opposition.

To Batswana and those who were paying attention to this year's elections, the results showed just how unpredictable this democratic process can be. They showed that when it comes to the polls,pre-election predictions and other freedom square shenanigans mean nothing. The people and only the people know what they want and how they are going to vote to get that.

It is a democracy that allowed Botswana to witness just how unpredictable elections can be and that right there is its beauty. When they are alone in that voting booth, no amount of scholarly knowledge can help decipher what a person is going to mark on that ballot paper. Only they know how they want their destiny to be shaped up and this democratic process gives them the opportunity to decide that destiny.