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Politics of Botswana

Government Botswana has a flourishing multiparty constitutional democracy. Each of the elections since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The country's small white minority and other minorities participate freely in the political process. There are two main rival parties and a number of smaller parties. In national elections in 1999, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 33 of 40 contested National Assembly seats, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won 6, and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) won 1 seat. An additional 4 seats are held by individuals appointed by the President; all 4 are currently held by the ruling BDP. The opposition out-polled the ruling BDP in most urban areas. The openness of the country's political system has been a significant factor in Botswana's stability and economic growth. General elections are held at least every 5 years.

The president has executive power and is chosen by the National Assembly following countrywide legislative elections. The cabinet is selected by the president from the National Assembly; it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers and assistant ministers, currently 12 and 3, respectively. The National Assembly has 40 elected and 4 appointed members; it is expanded following each census (every 10 years).

The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal subgroups of the Batswana tribe, and four other members are elected by the subchiefs of four of the districts. A draft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to the House of Chiefs for advisory opinion. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary, traditional courts, though all persons have the right to request that their case be considered under the formal British-based legal system.

The roots of Botswana's democracy lie in Setswana traditions, exemplified by the Kgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders are limited by custom and law. Botswana's High Court has general civil and criminal jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president and may be removed only for cause and after a hearing. The constitution has a code of fundamental human rights enforced by the courts, and Botswana has a good human rights record.

Local government is administered by nine district councils and five town councils. District commissioners have executive authority and are appointed by the central government and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and district development committees. There has been ongoing debate about the political, social, and economic marginalization of the San (indigenous tribal population). The government's policies for remote area dwellers continue to spark controversy and to be revised in response to domestic and donor concerns.

Principal Government Officials
President--Festus G. Mogae
Vice President--Lt. Gen. Seretse Khama Ian Khama
Ambassador to the United States--Kgosi Seepapitso
Ambassador to the United Nations--L.J.M.J. Legwaila

Botswana maintains an embassy at 1531-1533 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington DC 20036 (tel. 202-244-4990; fax 202-244-4164). Its mission to the United Nations is at 103 E. 37th Street, New York NY 10017 (tel. 212-889-2277; fax 212-725-5061).

Country name:
conventional long form: Republic of Botswana
conventional short form: Botswana
former: Bechuanaland

Data code: BC

Government type: parliamentary republic

Capital: Gaborone

Administrative divisions: 10 districts and four town councils*; Central, Chobe, Francistown*, Gaborone*, Ghanzi, Kgalagadi, Kgatleng, Kweneng, Lobatse*, Ngamiland, North-East, Selebi-Pikwe*, South-East, Southern

Independence: 30 September 1966 (from UK)

National holiday: Independence Day, 30 September (1966)

Constitution: March 1965, effective 30 September 1966

Legal system: based on Roman-Dutch law and local customary law; judicial review limited to matters of interpretation; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction

Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal

Executive branch:
chief of state: President Festus MOGAE (since 1 April 1998) and Vice President Seretse Ian KHAMA (since NA April 1998); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government; vice president KHAMA is on a one-year leave of absence, effective 1 January 2000, but retains the title of vice president
head of government: President Festus MOGAE (since 1 April 1998) and Vice President Seretse Ian KHAMA (since NA April 1998); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government; vice president KHAMA is on a one-year leave of absence, effective 1 January 2000, but retains the title of vice president
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president elected by the National Assembly for a five-year term; election last held 16 October 1999 (next to be held NA October 2004); vice president appointed by the president
election results: Festus MOGAE elected president; percent of National Assembly vote - 61.3%

Legislative branch: bicameral Parliament consists of the House of Chiefs (a largely advisory 15-member body consisting of the chiefs of the eight principal tribes, four elected subchiefs, and three members selected by the other 12) and the National Assembly (44 seats, 40 members are directly elected by popular vote and 4 appointed by the majority party; members serve five-year terms)
elections: National Assembly - elections last held 16 October 1999 (next to be held NA October 2004)
election results: percent of vote by party - BDP 61.3%, other 38.7%; seats by party - BDP 33, other 7

Judicial branch: High Court; Court of Appeal

Political parties and leaders: Botswana Democratic Party or BDP [Festus MOGAE]; Botswana National Front or BNF [Kenneth KOMA]; Botswana Congress Party or BCP [Michael DINGAKE]; Botswana People's Party or BPP [Knight MARIPE]
note: main parties are: BDP, BNF, BCP; other minor parties joined forces in 1999 to form the Botswana Alliance Movement or BAM [Kenneth KOMA, chairman] but did not capture any parliamentary seats; the BAM parties are: the United Action Party [Ephraim Lepetu SETSHWAELO], the Social Democratic Union, the Independence Freedom Party [Motsamai MPHO], and the Botswana Progressive Union [Gideon KAELO]

International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, ISO, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Flag description: light blue with a horizontal white-edged black stripe in the center

See also : Botswana



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