Under the 1965 Constitution, Botswana is a republic with an executive president chosen by the National Assembly for the concurrent five-year term. After the 2004 general election, the Assembly had 57 members elected by universal adult suffrage plus four members nominated by the president. The 35-member Ntloya Dikgosi (formerly known as the House of Chiefs) advises on ethnic matters. Thirty of these members are elected by senior tribal authorities and the remaining five are appointed by the president.
Subject to the provisions of the Botswana Constitution and to the approval of the president, the House of Chiefs may make rules regulating its own procedure.
The Botswana Democratic Party (BDP), first formed in 1962, has ruled that the party leadership is only to be held by any one person for two terms. The ruling has significant implications on the democratic country since the office of national president going back to independence has been held by a BDP leader.
Constitutional amendments approved in April 1997 retained the system by which the President is elected by parliament but allowed the vice-president automatically to succeed in the event of the president’s death or resignation during his term of office. It also reduced the voting age from 21 to 18.
The unique history of Botswana is reflected in its judicial system. The legal system is based on Roman-Dutch Law and English Common law. The High Court of Botswana is at Lobatse, with a branch at Francistown. There are magistrates’ courts in each district. Appeals are made to the Court of Appeal of Botswana. The chief justice and the president of the Court of Appeal are appointed by the president.
Customary law cases are heard by village assemblies of kgotla, which are open to all; the traditional chiefs act as court presidents. There is also a customary court of appeal.
Having first come under British control in the 1880s, the land-locked protectorate of Bechuanaland achieved independence from the United Kingdom in 1966. The newly renamed Republic of Botswana went on to become what is widely regarded as Africa’s longest uninterrupted multi-party democracy. Its flag, made up of strips of blue, and white and black, is intended to signify both rain water and racial harmony.
In the 1960s Seretse Khama founded the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) which sought a non-racial and democratic but traditional society in which chiefs and traditional courts still had a role. Seretse Khama went on to become the first president of the independent republic, and led the country until his death on 1980.
As of 2011, the BDP had not lost a single general election since independence. Other political parties in Botswana include the Botswana National Front (BNF), the Botswana Congress Party (BCP) and the Botswana Alliance Movement.
In April 2008 Ian Khama, son of the former President Sir Seretse Khama, became Botswana’s fourth president.