Maseru – Lesotho's old warhorse, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his new Democratic Congress (DC) extended their lead in Saturday's parliamentary election, winning 36 of the 80 directly-elected constituency seats announced so far.
The DC stretched its lead overnight, by ten over Tom Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) which remained on 26. It had surprisingly emerged as the leader after the first day of counting on Sunday.
Mosisili’s former governing party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) which had been expected to be in the first two, remained the big loser, winning only 12 seats so far while the Front for Popular Democracy (FPD) clung to its one seat.
The DC won all 11 seats announced on Monday which were from rural areas where it is strong. And it could also win the last five to be announced on Tuesday, also rural.
That would give it 41 of the 80 directly elected seats in Parliament, a majority of just one.
That could be enough to enable the great survivor Mosisili to continue governing on his own. But Lesotho's complicated mixed voting system makes that uncertain.
So horse-trading among all political parties to try to forge a workable coalition began on Monday.
A senior DC official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said earlier on Monday the party had already started coalition talks with the ABC. If these failed, then it would open similar talks with its arch-foe, the LCD, even though both parties had ruled out joining coalitions with each other before the elections.
If the talks with either the ABC or LCD failed, the official said, the DC would woo individual MPs from both parties.
“We are confident that we will lead the new government. We are also not political buffoons not to know that we have to start serious engagements with any coalition partners immediately,” said the DC official.
But these coalition talks may not be necessary if the DC can secure a simple majority.
However, some politicians and observers said that a coalition between the ABC and the LCD was more likely.
Officials close to ABC leader Thabane said he was confident he would win enough seats to lead a new government in coalition with the LCD and other smaller opposition parties who would probably be given some of the extra 40 seats which are allocated on a proportional representation basis, according to the total national votes won by each party.
“We are in serious discussions with the LCD but most will depend on the final tally of the seats. The LCD is our first preference for any coalition as we have all been in the opposition...” said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But he stressed that the ABC’s confidence that it could form a new government was dependent on the proportional representation seats being allocated “properly”.
The complicated allocation system of these 40 seats has been the main source of conflict after past elections and could once again cause friction this time. After the 2007 elections, disputes over the allocation of the 40 seats prompted the Southern African Development Community to intervene to calm tensions.
But this did not permanently solve the problem as the parties continued squabbling over the seats until this election. The system had been designed to favour smaller parties to balance the parites that did well in the constituency voting. But the big parties then manipulated the system by forming alliances with smaller parties to coopt the proportional representation seats.
The system has since been changed to try to prevent this happening but some observers suspect the ingenious Basotho politicians will find a way around the reforms.
Efforts to get clarification from election authorities on how these seats would be allocated this time proved fruitless.
The African Union election observer mission said in its preliminary report that the elections had "free, fair and credible" and urged all stakeholders to accept the outcome. - Independent Foreign Service