Lesotho PM misses poll victory

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Pakalitha Mosisili, Prime Minister of Lesotho. The politician who led Lesotho for the last 14 years will now be leading the opposition after his party failed to win a majority in parliament. Photo: Leon Lestrade

Maseru - Soldiers deployed in Lesotho's capital on Tuesday after an inconclusive weekend election that has left many in the African highland kingdom fearing a repeat of the violence that followed a disputed poll in 1998.

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, in charge of the landlocked nation of 2 million for the past 14 years, emerged from Saturday's election as the most powerful player in parliament but has fallen short of an outright majority.

Three opposition parties unveiled an anti-Mosisili coalition, setting the stage for a rerun of 1998, when post-poll wrangling led to weeks of unrest that ultimately triggered military intervention by neighbouring South Africa and Botswana to restore order.

At least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died in that fighting and large parts of Maseru were damaged.

“The opposition is trying to announce that it has formed a coalition against Mosisili because they have sufficient numbers to form a government,” said Hoolo 'Nyane, director of the Transformation Resource Centre, a Maseru think-tank.

“But Mosisili doesn't seem to be ready to relinquish power. Even his supporters are trying to fabricate new interpretations of the constitution.”

Mosisili's Democratic Congress party won 41 of 80 constituency seats but cannot gain enough of 40 proportional representation seats up for grabs to ensure outright control.

Since independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho - entirely surrounded by South Africa - has undergone several military coups although the army and police told election monitors before the poll they would act professionally and not take sides.

At least three trucks of soldiers were seen patrolling the streets of Maseru. It was not clear who had ordered them in.

Prolonged unrest would put a dent in the $4 billion economy, which is forecast to expand at 4 percent 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, Lesotho's big earner is hydropower exported to South Africa from the massive mountain ranges that have made it a favourite of trivia fans as “the world's highest country” - its lowest point is 1,380 metres (4,528 feet) above sea level. - Reuters


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