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Page last updated at 19:13 GMT, Friday, 16 October 2009 20:13 UK

Botswana votes in diamond crunch

Voters queue to cast their votes at a polling station in Gaborone
Correspondents say there is an air of excitement as voters queue

Voting has ended in Botswana's general election, held amid a deep recession in the world's largest diamond producer.

The global slowdown has caused gem sales to decline and some Botswana diamond mines closed earlier this year.

But President Ian Khama's Botswana Democratic Party is expected to remain in power as the opposition is divided.

Botswana is seen as one of Africa's most stable and democratic countries, even though only one party has been in power since independence in 1966.

We saw a lot more debates and people have been a lot more vocal
Voter reading a Dan Brown novel

The son of Botswana's first president, Mr Khama faces his first democratic test since becoming Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) leader some 18 months ago.

He is credited with being decisive, but also criticised for being dogmatic.

The BBC's Letlohile Lucas in the capital, Gaborone, says turnout was high - with queues forming two hours before polls opened.

There were still queues outside many polling stations at 1900 (1800 GMT) when voting ended, but the Independent Electoral Commission said everyone waiting would be allowed to cast their ballot.

One voter said the election campaign had been more exciting than in previous years.

"We saw a lot more debates and people have been a lot more vocal," Malebogo Morakaladi told the AFP news agency while waiting in a queue to vote in north-west Gaborone.

Ian Khama
Ian Khama's party has been in power since independence

Correspondents says Botswana's over-dependence on diamonds for its export earnings and tax revenues, as well as jobs and human rights will all be issues that influence voters.

"I would like them [the new government] to improve the employment rates in Botswana, especially for the young people, and I'd like development in the rural areas and water in the rural areas," a voter in Gaborone South constituency told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

Brigalia Bam, head of African Union's election observation mission, told the BBC she had been impressed with the process so far.

Dumelang Saleshando from the opposition Botswana Congress Party told the BBC there had been a few instances where people had been unable to vote, although overall the voting seemed "smooth".

"There are some cases of numbers on the voters roll not corresponding to one on their voting card, but I think it may be a question of typos because sometimes it's one digit," he said.

'Media-shy'

Recent moves to slap a 30% levy on alcohol, clamp down on the media and impose strict discipline on party dissidents has led to criticism that President Khama is too authoritarian.

Mr Khama, 56, has roundly dismissed the charges, and says he is just a man motivated by delivery who is media-shy.

Splits within the president's party are expected to see its overall support base decline, but the opposition is equally fractured.

The BDP won 44 of the 57 seats at the last election in 2004, with the other seats going to the Botswana National Front and the Botswana Congress Party.

A party needs at least 29 seats to be able to elect a president, which will next happen in 2013 when Mr Khama's term in office ends.

Some 725,000 voters are registered from a population of 1.9 million.



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