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.
The narrow margin makes this the closest election in Lesotho’s history, and the first time that no party has won an outright majority. But owing to the country’s rather convoluted electoral system, Mosisili and his brand-new Democratic Congress party need to come up with seven more seats in order to appoint a government. The lobbying process has already begun. Democratic Congress MP Mootsi Lehata, returned to his seat in this election, said that the plan was to “get individuals to come over to our side”; in other words, to persuade them to cross the floor.
To achieve this, however, the party will have to offer some juicy carrots such as ministerial positions and funding guarantees. And that won’t be easy. The Democratic Congress, despite having such a seasoned leader, is a brand spanking new political institution. Its success is testament to the cult of personality that Mosisili, in his 15 years as Prime Minister, has built around himself. To form the new party, Mosisili left his old party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, apparently because he was losing control to other ambitious politicians. The old party is coming a distant third in these elections, and has the power to play kingmaker. But will the men who unseated Mosisili once already come to his rescue? It seems unlikely. On the other hand, no one wants to be left out in the cold until the next election comes around.