Lesotho heads for tense, open election

2012-05-25 10:34
Johannesburg - Voters in the highland African kingdom of Lesotho go to the polls on Saturday in a wide-open election that analysts say could end up without a clear result, as happened in 1998 when South Africa had to send in troops to quell major civil unrest.

Campaigning has been peaceful but a lack of opinion polls, and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili's decision in February 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.

South African pop stars have helped draw large crowds to political rallies, livening up what is normally a sleepy backwater known mainly for being entirely surrounded by South Africa and having the continent's best cross-country skiing.

"It has brought a lot of excitement on the part of the people. We think there will be a high turnout because people are very interested to see what is going to happen," former Malawi president Bakili Muluzi, head of a Commonwealth observer team, told Reuters.

Results are expected to trickle into the capital, Maseru, on Sunday, and are most likely to leave Mosisili's DC at the front of the pack to form a new government but without a clear majority, analysts say.

If the DC is unable or unwilling to form a coalition with either of the other two main parties - the Lesotho Congress for Democracy and the All Basotho Convention - it could push the former British colony into choppy constitutional waters.

"The prospect of the DC being the party with the most MPs but not able to form a government - that would be a very disturbing scenario," said Hoolo 'Nyane, director of the Transformation Resource Centre, a Maseru think-tank.

Military coups

A repeat of the 1998 political stand-off and subsequent fighting, in which at least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died and large parts of Maseru were damaged, was "not completely unlikely", he added.

Since independence in 1966, Lesotho has undergone a number of military coups although Muluzi said he had received assurances from the army and police that they would act professionally and not take sides.

His Commonwealth observer team, one of several groups of monitors, are due to remain in place until 01 June to try to ensure a smooth post-election transition.

"I am aware that things can happen and therefore we would rather be around to see that a government has been put in place," he said.

Prolonged post-election unrest would put a dent in the $4bn economy, which is forecast to expand at 4% this year due to a boom in diamond mining and a recovery in the farming sector after serious flooding in 2011.

Besides a slice of regional customs receipts, the country's other big earner is hydropower exported to South Africa from the massive mountain ranges that have made Lesotho a favourite of trivia fans as "the world's highest country" - its lowest point is 1 380m above sea level.

Read more on:    pakalitha mosisili  |  sa  |  lesotho  |  southern africa

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

24.com publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.