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Botswana opposition loses bid to nullify election results

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) swept to a crushing majority in the 23 October general elections, securing 38 out of 57 seats in parliament.

FILE: Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) leader Boko Duma (L) and vice president Dumelang Saleshando listen at a rally campaign for the general elections in Gaborone on 19 October 2019. Botswana will have their general election on 23 October 2019. Picture: AFP

GABORONE - Botswana's court of appeal on Wednesday dismissed an opposition bid to challenge election results that enabled President Mokgweetsi Masisi to secure a five-year term.

The ruling Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) swept to a crushing majority in the 23 October general elections, securing 38 out of 57 seats in parliament.

Runner-up Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), which won only 15 seats, filed a lawsuit shortly after the announcement, citing alleged irregularities.

"We have no jurisdiction to entertain these appeals," head judge Ian Kirby ruled on Wednesday, speaking on behalf of the five-member panel that oversaw the case.

The court of appeal had agreed to hear the opposition earlier this month after a lower court rejected their petition for lack of evidence.

The verdict has now drawn a line under the case.

UDC spokesman Moeti Mohwasa would not comment on the judges' decision.

"We have nothing to say at the moment until we study the ruling," he told AFP.

Botswana, famed for its diamonds and wildlife, is hailed by many in Africa as a beacon of stability and democracy.

The BDP has ruled the southern African country since independence from Britain in 1966.

But the party was divided in May when former president Ian Khama unexpectedly renounced his hand-picked successor Masisi and backed a new party.

That move had been predicted to offset the BDP's hold on power and see its majority in parliament drop.

Both Masisi and his party have repeatedly dismissed claims of voting irregularities.

Several BDP members, however, claimed to have taken part in a widespread vote-rigging operation in the run-up to the October polls.

BDP spokesman Banks Kentse said the party was "delighted by the verdict" and called on the opposition to respect the court's decision.

"We do hope that our friends at UDC will now put these issues behind and focus on playing their role as main opposition in a democratic state," Kentse said after the ruling.

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