Polls open in Botswana's hotly contested election

A Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) supporter holds up a poster during an election campaign rally in Mokgweetsi Masisi's, President of Botswana and leader of the BDP, home village in Moshupa, on October 22, 2019. AFP photo

Voting began on Wednesday in Botswana for a tightly contested general election that could test the country's reputation as a beacon of democracy and stability in Africa.

The historic Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) was shaken up earlier this year after former president Ian Khama dramatically renounced his hand-picked successor Mokgweetsi Masisi and backed the main opposition group.

Voters started gathering late on Tuesday at Tlogatloga secondary school in Botswana's capital Gaborone, waiting all night to cast their ballot.

"I have spotted a candidate I think is the right person and I have to get him in," said banker Chops Maswikiti, 37.

"He does not belong to the party I voted for in the last two terms but he represents strong sanity on our side," he told AFP.

Around 931,000 of the country's 2.2 million people are registered to vote in the parliamentary and local elections.

The BDP, the Khama-backed UDC and two smaller parties will vie for 57 seats in parliament. The party with the most seats chooses the president.

Khama stormed out of the BDP in May after accusing President Masisi -- his deputy until last year -- of autocracy.

Should he fulfil his goal to unseat the BDP, it would be the first time diamond-rich Botswana has seen a change of government in 53 years.

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