Politicians play nice

2015-03-01 06:00

The main political players in Lesotho have promised to accept voters’ decisions, whatever they may be.

In interviews with City Press yesterday, Prime Minister Tom Thabane, leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), and his main rival, former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili, head of the Democratic Congress (DC), promised to abide by the outcome of the polls.

Basotho National Party secretary Francis Leuta also pledged to accept the results.

Thabane said: “We have been through a difficult period and are all tired of that. People who have won should run the country.

“And those who lose should be ready to take the opposition benches. If I lose, I will take my seat as the leader of the opposition.”

He said that if he won he would serve one more term “and go”.

Mosisili said he had accepted defeat before and had no qualms doing so again.

“In 2012, I accepted it and peacefully handed over power to Thabane. All role players should be democratic enough to accept the will of the people.”

Leuta told City Press: “In modern democracies, people lose elections and step down. The Africa in which presidents occupy high office for decades is gone.”

He blamed the country’s politicians for creating chaos. “The problem is not the army – it is politicians who take over power through straight coups or undue influence of the army.”

The country’s elections, which were held yesterday, were brought forward by two years after the collapse of the coalition government involving Thabane, Leuta and smaller parties.

The coalition was dissolved in August last year after a coup attempt, after which the Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervened.

Since 1970, the tiny landlocked country – which gained its independence from Great Britain in 1966 – has survived five coups and attempted coups. It has also been ruled by monarchs, by decree and by army generals.

Despite the country’s troubles, politicians were optimistic yesterday.

Mosisili said: “I’m hopeful we will do well. The people of Lesotho will give us their vote. We have a good track record and did well when we were in government. Thabane’s coalition has been a disaster, by all accounts. Surely Lesotho deserves better.”

An outright victory, he said, would be great. “We are hoping to do better than in 2012. The party performed better than all other parties, bagging 48 of 120 parliamentary seats. But the DC was not able to convince other parties to form a coalition.”

Thabane was equally positive. “I know I will win my constituency. I feel confident I will succeed. I have canvassed and sold my good message. I have followed the democratic path and I should succeed. I’ve done my work and it’s now up to the voter.”

He said he was willing to go into another coalition if he did not get an outright win.

An SADC election observer in Maseru, who spoke to City Press on condition of anonymity, said there had been no incidents and voting had been peaceful.

South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, who was involved in negotiating this election process, was spotted at the Lesotho Sun Hotel late yesterday afternoon.

“Everybody I have come across tells me everything has worked extremely well,” he told City Press.

“The queues have been long, which tells us the Basotho have responded most positively to the call to bring about peace and stability.”

Isaac Nkama, a council member of the SA Institute of International Affairs, said despite earlier challenges, leaders of all the major political parties had shown great maturity in how they conducted their campaigns. Their supporters, he said, were generally well behaved and leaders desisted from personal attacks in their speeches.

He praised the leaders, saying it was clear that the recent challenges had led them to put the country’s interests above their political differences.

“There is no doubt in my mind that peace will prevail after the elections, regardless of who wins,” Nkama said.

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