Tension is high as Lesotho goes to the polls | Africa | DW | 26.02.2015
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Africa

Tension is high as Lesotho goes to the polls

Basothos are set to hit the polls on Saturday (28.02.2015) for an early election staged to restore order after a coup attempt. Analysts say that the elections are being held to redeem the fallen coalition government.

The people of Lesotho will be heading to the polls on Saturday (28.02.2015). The elections are being held early in a bid to restore stability following a coup attempt last August that forced Prime Minister Thomas Thabane to briefly seek refuge in South Africa. The coup was staged as fallout between the coalition government leaders Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing and Sports Minister Thesele ‘Maseribane

Four major parties will be taking part in the election: the All Basotho Convention (ABC) led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Deputy Premier Mothetjoa Metsing, the Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Sports Minister Thesele Maseribane and the Democratic Congress (DC) led by former prime minister Pakalitha Mosilsili.

Lesotho's Prime minister Thomas Thabane

Following a coup attempt last August Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was forced to briefly seek refuge in South Africa

Lasting solution to the crisis in Lesotho?

Some analysts have pointed out that the election will not change the country's political climate. "... I see a scenario of 2012 repeating itself where the parties would have to form alliance and then again form another coalition Government," said Dimpho Motsamai, a researcher at South Africa's institute for Security Studies.

The tiny Mountain Kingdom of two million residents surrounded by South Africa, last held elections in 2012.There was a peaceful transition of power and the country's first ever coalition was formed raising hopes of stability. The three-party coalition ran into trouble in June 2014, when Thabane's deputy Metsing announced a vote of no confidence against the premier, who thereafter suspended parliament.

Hoolo Nyane, the former Director of Transformation Resource Center in the capital Maseru sees the importance of the election as one that is going to restore a "stalemate" in government, which has existed since the beginning of 2014. He is nevertheless skeptical of whether the election will resolve the pending issues of security and political issues.

Mothejoa Metsing, leader of Lesotho Congress for Democracy

Mothejoa Metsing is the leader of the LCD, which is part of the coalition government

SADC election

South Africa's President Jacob Zuma, hosted talks in his capacity as chairman of the peace and security section of the regional bloc Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) earlier this month. The talks attended by key regional leaders including Prime Minister Thabane, South Africa's President Zuma and Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe, approved Lesotho's plan to hold a snap election on February 28.

Nyane says the election could be called a SADC election. "All major decisions in this election period have been made by Deputy President of the Republic of South Africa, Cyril Ramaphosa, who is now the facilitator of the conflict situation in Lesotho. So it could be said in a way this election is a SADC election," he added. In October 2014, Ramaphosa helped to broker a political agreement that pushed the polls forward. The deal was made in a bid to try to resolve political tensions in the country.

A military officer in front of a military tank

The military has been ordered to remain in the barracks during the election

Heavy regional police presence

The attempted coup in August last year highlighted friction between Lesotho's military and police. To date tension between the military and police is still running high. Motsamai sees the level of trust between them to be very low. She said, "The attacks by the military on the police during the attempted coup were never brought to some kind of a criminal account". She also added that this is a serious and unresolved issue and it is one of the primary reasons why the level of trust continues to be low, despite an agreement facilitated by SADC.

The national assembly elections in Lesotho will be held under heavy regional police presence. SADC has deployed about 400 police officers from the region to maintain peace. Lesotho's defense force will be confined to barracks on the day of election.

"The issue of the army is still pretty much a threat to the post-election stability," Nyane said. He sees a threat if the military does not accept the outcome of the election. "We can only hope that they will be able to abide and they will not be able to interfere," Nyane added. Observer missions have also been deployed to ensure that the elections have been conducted in a manner that is peaceful, free and fair, transparent and credible.

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