Election officials in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho on Sunday investigated why armed soldiers had been deployed at many polling stations on voting day. The army has often been accused of interfering in politics in Lesotho, a landlocked African country of two million people that has been hit by attempted coups and instability in recent years. “The nation, the voters and even the observers were surprised… they felt that some voters were intimidated,” Independent Electoral Commission spokesperson Tuoe Hantsi told reporters. “The law dictates who should be at the polling stations, and (the soldiers) caused confusion.”
People in Lesotho voted in a national election on Saturday just two years after the previous one as the Southern African kingdom struggles with political instability. The nation of 2 million people has been hit by several coups since independence from Britain in 1966 and army troops were on duty until the polls closed at 1500 GMT on Saturday. Election officials expect results to start trickling in early on Sunday. King Letsie III has been head of state of the landlocked country, which is surrounded by South Africa, since independence from Britain in 1996. But political leadership has been volatile in recent years with the last two elections failing to produce a winner with a clear majority.
While the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has announced determination to deliver a credible election and that they remain on course and faithful to their calendar, extra-mural events pose a serious threat to a free and fairly run electoral process. The electoral body has voiced concern over forecast weather patterns in the country, with citizens put on high alert for the week preceding, during and after elections, due to extreme weather conditions predicted over polling day.
Lesotho has experienced political instability for the past four decades and the country has pinned its hope on this year’s election to end the turmoil. In March this year, the country was plunged into a fresh political crisis after Parliament passed a vote of no-confidence on Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and later dissolved. Two years ago, the Kingdom of Lesotho was again in crisis following the ouster of former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Congress.
In Africa’s year of elections, with democracy in retreat in many parts of the continent, Lesotho is a pygmy beside giants like Nigeria and other larger nations facing votes. But many observers are watching the small mountain nation as it heads to the polls Saturday, one of just a handful of African countries that in the past has seen a peaceful democratic handover of power from one party to another. Lesotho’s democratic credentials are in question after an attempted coup in August forced Prime Minister Tom Thabane to flee the country. Saturday’s balloting is supposed to resolve the crisis, if friction between political opponents and rival branches of the security forces doesn’t derail the process. Among the other countries facing elections this year are Sudan, Ethiopia, Ivory Coast, Tanzania, Mali, Burkino Faso, Burundi, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Guinea, Central African Republic, Togo and Mauritius.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Lesotho says a cross section of citizens will participate in planned advance voting on Saturday ahead of the February 28 general election. Lesotho’s electoral law stipulates that security forces, nurses, media houses, embassy officials and officers from the electoral commission who will be on duty on election day, are permitted to vote ahead of a scheduled general election. Tuoe Hantsi, spokesman for the electoral body, says the IEC is ready to administer a transparent and credible election. “The [IEC] is so ready. All is in place. The materials have been sent to the stations where the voting is going to take place. The main one on the 28th,” said Hantsi. “The politicians all stakeholders are now together and would see to it that we are having a successful election on the 28th.”
In the first few months after Lesotho’s crisis in August, much of the blame was pinned on the aggression of the country’s military commander, Lieutenant General Tlali Kamoli. But now, just days before the kingdom’s February 28 election aimed at resolving the impasse, there are indications that Prime Minister Tom Thabane may have an entire rogue military on his hands. The August 30 coup attempt saw Lesotho Defence Force soldiers chase Thabane from his official residence across the South African border. Simultaneously, troops attacked three police stations, killing one officer and injuring nine others. For South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, the lead mediator in the crisis for the Southern African Development Community (SADC), a crowning achievement came in November when he exiled Kamoli from Lesotho.
Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa was happy with preparations ahead of Lesotho’s elections scheduled for February 28, his spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said on his return to South Africa on Saturday. Ramaphosa was visiting in his capacity as SA Development Community-appointed facilitator after an attempted coup in August which led to prime minister Tom Thabane fleeing for South Africa. Mamoepa said the latest visit included meetings with King Letsie III, representatives of the coalition government namely Thabane of the All Basuthu Convention (ABC), deputy prime minister Mothejoa Metsing of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and minister of gender and youth, sports and recreation Thesele Maseribane of the Basutho Nationa Party . Besides the coalition partners, he also met representatives of the non-governmental organisation sector, church leaders, and chiefs of security agencies the Lesotho Defence Force and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service.
Lesotho will go ahead with early elections as planned at the end of this month despite recent renewed tensions, South Africa’s presidency announced at the end of crisis talks with the kingdom’s premier on Monday. “The meeting expressed its confidence that the climate for the holding of elections on 28 February remains on course,” President Jacob Zuma’s office said in a statement. Zuma hosted the Monday talks in his capacity as chairperson of the peace and security section of the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC). The talks were attended by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and top officials from his troubled coalition government.
Two soldiers have been wounded and a private security guard killed during a shooting outside the presidential palace gates in Lesotho, adding to an already tense political climate ahead of elections later this month, an official said Monday. The two soldiers were attacked on Sunday by “renegade” soldiers who wanted to destabilize Lesotho ahead of the Feb. 28 elections, Thabo Thakalekoala, the prime minister’s press secretary said.
Lesotho’s opposition parties say they have formed a coalition government after Sunday’s inconclusive election. The leader of the All Basotho Convention, Tom Thabane told the BBC that he had reached an agreement with the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and two smaller parties. “We are going to have a vast majority in parliament,” Mr Thabane said. Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili failed to win an absolute majority in the weekend parliamentary election.
The party of the longtime prime minister won Lesotho’s parliamentary elections, according to complete results posted Tuesday on the website of the southern African country’s Independent Electoral Commission. Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress won 41 of 80 seats, the simple majority needed to form a government, though it may need to form a coalition to consolidate power. The All Basotho Convention, the main opposition, had 26 seats. Shortly before Saturday’s vote in this nation of 2 million, Mosisili broke away from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, which had been riven by an internal power struggle. The Lesotho Congress for Democracy had 12 seats while another opposition party had one according to the final results.
Hundreds of rival supporters packed out Maseru’s Manthabiseng Convention Centre on Monday, waiting (mostly) patiently to hear the final results of Lesotho’s general elections held on Saturday. Their waiting was in vain, however; official results will only be announced on Tuesday morning at the earliest, and that is only if the bad weather clears up and the helicopters are able to land in remote areas to collect the ballots. However, the result of the election is an open secret amongst party leaders and officials from Lesotho’s independent electoral commission, who told the Daily Maverick that Prime Minister Mosisili had edged his main opponent, Thomas Thabane, by just one constituency seat. This is based on the vote counts conducted in each constituency, which have yet to be verified or announced, but are unlikely to change.
Voters in the highland African kingdom of Lesotho went to the polls on Saturday in a wide-open election that analysts say could end without a clear result, as happened in 1998 when South Africa had to send in troops to quell unrest. The capital Maseru was quiet, with shops closed, as voters queued up on a crisp and clear southern hemisphere winter morning. Campaigning has been peaceful but a lack of opinion polls, and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s decision to quit the ruling party and go it alone under the banner of the new Democratic Congress (DC) party, have kept the landlocked nation’s two million people on tenterhooks. “I decided to go to the polls because I want changes. We are tired of this government, we need changes,” said Mohato Bereng, a local chief, planning to vote for the Lesotho Congress for Democracy.
Lesotho – the tiny mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa, with the best (ok, only) skiing in Africa, and one of the world’s highest HIV infection rates – is getting recognition for something else: carrying out a peaceful election with a likely transfer of power. After elections held this week, a majority of Basotho voters turned against the 14-year rule of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, expressing frustration with empty promises. With no party enjoying a convincing majority, five opposition parties this week cobbled together Lesotho’s first-ever coalition government and claim at least 61 seats of the 120-member parliament – with an ex-foreign minister, Tom Thabane, tabbed as the new premier. With its straightforward process and absence of violence thus far, Lesotho gives a lesson in democracy that many other African countries — such as Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Cote D’Ivoire, Kenya, and even nearby Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and South Africa could learn to emulate, political observers say.
Tiny Lesotho votes on Saturday in the most hotly contested election since Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili came to power in a 1998 vote that sparked rioting and a South African military intervention. After 14 years in power, Mosisili has established himself as a towering figure in this mountainous kingdom, bordered on all sides by South Africa, the regional powerhouse that dominates the enclave’s economy. He’s stayed in power through elections consistently endorsed by observers, even though Lesotho’s political disputes sometimes erupt in violence. Mosisili survived a 2009 military-style assault on his official residence that left four people dead. Eight people are standing trial, and the precise motives remain unclear. But signs of discontent with his rule are everywhere.
Lesotho: Keep calm and carry on voting – Lesotho’s elections look unusually competitive. That could spell trouble | The Economist
With barely a week to go before parliamentary elections in Lesotho on May 26th, there is no sign in the bustling capital of Maseru of the usual campaign paraphernalia: no posters, no cars emblazoned with party colours, no loudspeakers blaring political slogans, nothing to suggest that this mountain kingdom, surrounded by South Africa, was in the throes of its most hotly contested poll since independence from Britain nearly 50 years ago. This does not mean the Basotho, Lesotho’s 2m inhabitants, are unengaged. But the radio and party rallies are their preferred method of campaigning. Any of the country’s three main parties could win. The closeness of the race has people worried. Elections in Lesotho are generally deemed fair, but they have often been followed by violence. In 1998 Pakalitha Mosisili, leader of the newly elected Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), had to ask the Southern African Development Community, a 15-member regional club which includes Lesotho, to send in troops to end months of rioting, looting, burning and killing. Many fear that could happen again.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in Maseru will start distributing ballot papers starting on Wednesday in preparation for the Advanced voting on Saturday. This has been confirmed by the District Electoral Officer (DEO) in Maseru, Mr. Motlohi Sekoala in an interview on Tuesday. Mr. Sekoala said the ballot papers will be distributed under heavy police guard to ensure maximum safety during the exercise. He said there are about 970 advanced voters in 18 Maseru constituencies who are expected to cast their votes after applying as advanced electors.
Lesotho: Former Malawian President Bakili Muluzi to Lead Commonwealth Observers to Lesotho Elections | allAfrica.com
Commonwealth Secretary-General Kamalesh Sharma announced on 14 May 2012 that former Malawian President Dr Bakili Muluzi will lead the Commonwealth Observer Group to the Lesotho Parliamentary Elections, to be held on 26 May 2012. Mr Sharma said he was delighted that Dr Muluzi had accepted the invitation to lead the Group. “I am grateful to President Muluzi and other members of the Group for accepting to serve on this important undertaking. The Commonwealth attaches great importance to conducting credible elections as a means of strengthening democracy and giving citizens the opportunity to choose their leaders,” he said. “Lesotho is a valued member of the Commonwealth family, and we are delighted at having been invited to observe these elections. Credible and peaceful elections are a litmus test of how healthily the democratic culture in a country is taking root,” he added.
The King of Lesotho has set 26 May as the date for eagerly awaited general elections following a successful dialogue that ended the deadlock among the main political players. Agreement was reached one year ago after lengthy negotiations mediated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) aimed at finding a lasting solution to the political challenges in the country. “King Letsie III, in accordance with section 37 (1) of the 2011 National Assembly Election Act, and acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, proclaims that May 26 will be Election Day,” said a statement released by Prime Minister Mosisili Pakalitha in March. King Letsie III dissolved the Lesotho Parliament on 15 March to pave way for campaigning by the country’s 10 political parties. Post-electoral dissatisfaction emerged in Lesotho after the 2007 elections as the opposition party refused to accept the results, plunging the country into a crisis.
King Letsie III is expected to dissolve parliament on Thursday next week ahead of the country’s 8th parliamentary elections. Speaking yesterday on the sidelines of a Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations seminar held to discuss the country’s preparedness for the polls, the Independent Electoral Commission spokesperson, Mrs ‘Mamatlere Matete told Public Eye the 7th parliament is supposed to be officially closed on March 15, in line with the country’s constitution. “The term of the current parliament ends on the 15th of March 2012, as it began its tenure on March 15 2007. Therefore, we expect the King to dissolve the parliament as indicated in the country’s constitution. “Again, in line with Lesotho’s constitution, we should host elections within 90 days of the dissolution of parliament, and this is what we are expecting to happen,” said Matete.
The Independent Electoral Commission this week deregistered nine more political parties ahead of the general election, which reports suggest could take place in May this year. This makes it a total 12 parties the Commission has struck-off its roll in a space of one month for failing to comply with the country’s electoral laws, following the deregistration of the Christian Democratic Party, Lesotho Labour Party and United Democratic Party in December 2011.
The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Lesotho is still not sure of the exact date on which the local government elections will be held. It was earlier scheduled for September, but a new date is now being considered.
Meanwhile, main opposition political parties which earlier threatened to boycott elections, are now calling for a postponement saying they still have to register voters and many will be excluded if the proposed September date is honoured.