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Botswana Country Page.
Type: Republic, parliamentary democracy.
Independence: September 30, 1966.
Constitution: March 1965.
Branches: Executive--president (chief of state and head of government), cabinet. Legislative--popularly elected National Assembly; advisory House of Chiefs. Judicial--High Court, Court of Appeal, local and customary courts, industrial labor court.
Administrative subdivisions: Five town councils and nine district councils.
Major political parties: Botswana Democratic Party (BDP)--37 seats, Botswana National Front (BNF)--6 seats, Botswana Congress Party (BCP)--1 seat, Botswana Alliance Movement (BAM), Botswana Peoples Party (BPP)--0 seats.
Suffrage: Universal at 18.
Botswana has a flourishing multiparty constitutional democracy. Each of the elections since independence has been freely and fairly contested and has been held on schedule. The country's small white minority and other minorities participate freely in the political process. There are two main rival parties and a number of smaller parties. In national elections in 1999, the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) won 33 of 40 contested National Assembly seats, the Botswana National Front (BNF) won 6, and the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) won 1 seat. An additional 4 seats are held by individuals appointed by the President; all 4 are currently held by the ruling BDP. The opposition out-polled the ruling BDP in most urban areas. The openness of the country's political system has been a significant factor in Botswana's stability and economic growth. General elections are held at least every 5 years.
The president has executive power and is chosen by the National Assembly following countrywide legislative elections. The cabinet is selected by the president from the National Assembly; it consists of a vice president and a flexible number of ministers and assistant ministers, currently 13 and 4, respectively. The National Assembly has 40 elected and 4 appointed members; it is expanded following each census (every 10 years; the most recent was conducted in 2001 and results are pending).
The advisory House of Chiefs represents the eight principal subgroups of the Batswana tribe, and four other members are elected by the subchiefs of four of the districts. A draft of any National Assembly bill of tribal concern must be referred to the House of Chiefs for advisory opinion. Chiefs and other leaders preside over customary, traditional courts, though all persons have the right to request that their case be considered under the formal British-based legal system.
The roots of Botswana's democracy lie in Setswana traditions, exemplified by the Kgotla, or village council, in which the powers of traditional leaders are limited by custom and law. Botswana's High Court has general civil and criminal jurisdiction. Judges are appointed by the president and may be removed only for cause and after a hearing. The constitution has a code of fundamental human rights enforced by the courts, and Botswana has a good human rights record.
Local government is administered by nine district councils and five town councils. District commissioners have executive authority and are appointed by the central government and assisted by elected and nominated district councilors and district development committees. There has been ongoing debate about the political, social, and economic marginalization of the San (indigenous tribal population). The government's policies for the Basarwa (San) and other remote area dwellers continue to spark controversy.