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LESOTHO held parliamentary elections last weekend that were universally assessed as free and fair. But disturbing signs are now emerging that Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his Democratic Congress (DC) may be planning to subvert the democratic will.
Neither the DC nor any other single party was able to muster a majority of the 120 seats in Parliament. The DC won 41 of the 80 seats directly elected from constituencies. But after an extra 40 seats had been allocated by proportional representation in Lesotho’s complicated mixed electoral system, the DC only got a total of 48, well short of a majority.
A group of opposition parties led by Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) together won 72 seats, a clear majority, and has demanded the right to form a coalition government.
But the DC insists that as the largest single party, it has the first bite at forming a coalition and so horse trading among parties continues.
Meanwhile, Mosisili has resigned as prime minister, to the relief of many Basotho who have grown weary of his 14-year rule and his naked opportunism in clinging to power.
Now it seems their celebrations might be premature and that his resignation could have been a mere formality which could be reversed.
For yesterday his deputy Monyane Moleleki sent shockwaves through the kingdom by announcing on radio that the DC might form a “minority government”. That would be tantamount to a coup, especially as the chief of the army which is becoming ever more active as the political impasse continues, is believed to be strongly pro-DC.
That would be a disaster for Lesotho and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which would have to kick Lesotho out for violating its strong rule against unconstitutional transfers (or retention) of power.
Yet neither SA nor SADC seems to be paying sufficient attention to these disturbing developments.
A timely and forceful diplomatic intervention is required immediately before SA and the region are confronted with a much more painful and potentially fatal decision like the one they faced after the 1998 elections – whether to intervene militarily or allow democracy to be subverted.