Voting begins in Botswana's elections
24 October 2014, 13:04
Gaborone - Polling stations opened on Friday in nationwide elections that will determine Botswana's next president and bring fierce political campaigning to a close.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), which has ruled the southern African country since 1965, faces a tough challenge from a recently united opposition.
More than 820 000 people have registered to vote, slightly more than in 2009.
Three opposition parties, including the Botswana Movement for Democracy which split from the BDP in 2010, have joined forces to form the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC).
Another runner for the opposition is the Botswana Congress Party (BCP), currently third-largest in the 61-member parliament.
President Ian Khama - in office since 2008 - retains a certain measure of popularity thanks to the stability of the diamond-based economy and generous social programmes.
But his government's widely praised record in fighting corruption and maintaining the freedom of expression has begun to dim.
Many analysts nevertheless expected power to remain in the hands of the BDP, which enjoys support especially in rural areas among Khama's majoritarian Tswana ethnic group.
The leader of the party that gains a simple majority in the unicameral system is elected president by parliament.