Published online by Cambridge University Press: 05 April 2013
The power of the president in Botswana is enlarged by his simultaneous role as the leader of the ruling party. The BDP was, as noted, the governing party from the beginning, and presidentialism and predominance rose rapidly together. For more than thirty years, the state president's leadership position was broadly unchallengeable – ‘While the party is in power, the president shall remain president of the party without further elections’ (Article 33 (5) of the BDP's constitution) – and the tenure of the state president too was similarly unlimited for 35 years. Seretse Khama died in office, Masire remained unchallenged amid abounding corruption scandals until he chose retirement with statesman-like privileges, and arranged automatic succession to his chosen successor Festus Mogae. Until the late 1990s, the Botswana president was effectively as much a ‘president for life’ as a Hastings Kamuzu Banda. The ruling party's victory in parliamentary elections confers a democratic legitimacy on the unelected state president.
Supremacy is built upon solid numerical superiority in the legislature. The BDP has comfortably commanded legislative power over every election. No opposition party has come close to challenging the BDP, nor have they done so either in total combination.