Botswana: The 1965 Pre-Independence General Election

Extracted from: "Botswana" IN Compendium of Elections in Southern Africa (2002), edited by Tom Lodge, Denis Kadima and David Pottie, EISA, 42-43.

The country's first universal franchise election to the national legislature took place in March 1965. According to the census held in the previous year, Botswana's population numbered approximately 514 000. There was great public interest in the elections in the various constituencies, though it was generally accepted that Seretse Khama's Democratic party (BDP) would win hands down. In the public eye, the BDP was regarded as a moderate party with realistic policies and responsible leadership. Even the voters who would have liked to see more radicalism were not inspired by the smaller parties which claimed to be motivated by African nationalism but whose leaders were perceived to be too ethnocentric and quarrelsome.

The political climate and electoral conditions were generally favourable for free and fair competition among the contestants and were to remain so in all subsequent elections. The BPP emerged from the first election as the main opposition party, though its support proved to be very localised as it won only three seats - Francistown, Northeast and Mochudi (where the chief was opposed to the BDP; see 1965 National Assembly results for more detail). As leader of the majority party, Khama became prime minister and was elected president by the National Assembly when full independence was attained on 30 September 1966.

Contesting parties: Botswana Democratic party (BDP), Botswana People's Party (BPP), Botswana Independence Party (BIP). One independent candidate.
Leaders: Seretse Khama (BDP), Philip Matante (BPP), Motsamai Mpho (BIP).
Constituencies contested: BDP 31, BPP 26, BIP 24