Botswana is Africa’s oldest continuous democracy, having enjoyed decades of peaceful multipartyism since independence in 1966. However, this success is tempered by growing concerns that the country’s remarkable stability has come at the cost of further political development. Significant weaknesses in Botswana’s democracy include low civic participation, relatively weak opposition and civil society sectors, and a lack of incumbent turnover in 11 consecutive free and fair elections. Despite these challenges, Botswana has maintained its reputation as an African success story due to the scale, pace, and endurance of its socioeconomic and political development, particularly given setbacks elsewhere in the region.
Democracy is one of Botswana’s four founding principles and is a pillar of its National Vision 2016, which has driven development plans since 1997 (Presidential Task Group, 1997).1 The Vision 2016 Council’s evaluation of the country’s progress on this front is largely positive, citing high rankings on international benchmarks relative to other African countries (Botswana Vision 2016 Council, 2015). Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), for example, ranks Botswana as the least corrupt country in sub-Saharan Africa, while Freedom House has classified the country as “free” since 1973. In recent years, however, the country’s CPI score has declined (Transparency International, 2015), and in 2009, Freedom House downgraded Botswana’s political rights rating as a result of “decreased transparency and accountability in the executive branch under President Seretse Khama Ian Khama’s administration” (Freedom House, 2015a).