Botswana Government and Politics

State and politics

Botswana Country Flag

Since independence, Botswana has been a multi-party state and one of the most stable and functioning democracies in Africa.  However, the opposition has been divided and weak and the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) has been in power since independence in 1966.


The Constitution is from 1966, with an addition from 1997. According to the Constitution, the President holds the executive power, but may, according to the 1999 supplement, be re-elected only once. The president is elected for five years by the elected members of the National Assembly. Together with the President, the National Assembly has the legislative power. All presidents have been men.

The National Assembly, for which the government is responsible, has 65 members, of which 57 are elected directly for five years in a majority election in one-man constituencies. Six members are elected by Parliament, and two, the President and the Chancellor of Justice, are members by virtue of their respective offices. The number of members is adjusted after each census. In addition, there is an advisory upper house that has 35 members, which includes the chiefs of the eight most important people groups. Of the other members, 22 are elected at regional level and five are elected by the president.


All presidents have come from the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has dominated the country’s political life. For long periods, critical voices have come from the BDP’s own ranks rather than from the weak opposition. High unemployment, growing income gaps and the AIDS epidemic have created some dissatisfaction with BDP. However, the opposition is disadvantaged by the one-man election circuit; In 1999, for example, the BDP received 57 percent of the vote but over 80 percent of the seats in the parliament.

The first president, Seretse Khama, made Botswana known for a distinct policy of reconciliation. Diamond deposits made it possible to reduce dependence on South Africa. After Kama’s death in 1980, Ketumile Masire became president. He resigned in 1998 and was succeeded by Vice President Festus Mogae, who was then elected by Parliament in October 1999. Mogae remained as president until 2008, when he resigned in favor of Vice President Ian Khama, son of Seretse Khama. After the 2009 and 2014 elections, Ian Khama was elected by Parliament. In April 2018, Khama and his representatives resigned in favor of their Vice President Mokgweetsi Masisi, who could remain after BDP’s 2019 election victory.

The most important opposition party over the years has been the Botswana National Front (BNF), which usually gathers about 25 percent of the vote and has the strongest support in the cities. After cutting the number of mandates from twelve to six in the 2009 election, BNF 2012 formed the Alliance Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) together with the Botswana Movement for Democracy (BMD), which was formed in 2010 by defectors from BDP critical of Ian Khama’s authoritarian leadership style, and Botswana. People’s Party (BPP), which has not reached parliamentary representation since 1984.

The Botswana Congress Party (BCP) is described as social democratic and is the only other party that has more than exceptionally managed to get into Parliament in recent decades. In 2017, BCP announced that the party had joined the UDC ahead of the 2019 elections.

Because of a conflict with President and Party leader Masisi, Ian Khama left the BDP in 2019 and instead gave his support to the newly formed party Botswana Patriotic Front, which after the election in the same year got three parliamentary seats. The Alliance for Progressives, formed by politicians excluded from the BMD, also managed to get into parliament. Of the members who took office in 2019, seven (11 percent) were women.

Botswana actively participates in the cooperation in Southern Africa, especially within the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC).


The legal system in Botswana is mainly based on Roman law imported from South Africa in Dutch vintage (Roman-Dutch law), English law and local customary law. In addition to magistrates’ courts, the High Court and the Court of Appeal, Botswana also operates traditional courts, which apply customary law. The death penalty is punished for some serious crimes.

Human Rights

Violence and sexual violence against women are widespread and there is no law against rape in marriage. Sexual harassment against women is a widespread problem and occurs in schools as well as in government, where men generally have higher positions than women.

Despite stricter legislation, the indigenous people are discriminated against . The group, which had previously been forced to move from their traditional lands, now has legal support in being able to return, but few are aware of these rights and thus do not return. The San people are economically and politically marginalized and have very limited access to education.

In 2019, homosexual acts were decriminalized through a court decision in the High Court.

The country is relatively free from corruption.

Heads of State


1966-80 Seretse Khama
1980-98 Ketumile Masire
1998-2008 Festus Mogae
2008-18 Ian Khama
2018- Mokgweetsi Masisi

Botswana Head of Government

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