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Lesotho - Politics

The countrys democracy remains fragile and is in need for consolidation. The country is still haunted by its history of military and civil society actors and the opposition in Parliament generally lack the muscle to hold politicians and civil servants accountable or do not have access to the means to expose government shortcomings. Worse still is the fact that social consciousness about government use of its power is very low and the Basotho society lacks a formidable civic culture, which is important in any democracy.

Media in Lesotho is said to be free from direct government interference. It can play an important role of a watchdog on the contribution of various stakeholders and in the dissemination of information in most countries. With the transition to democratic rule in 1993, many private and independent electronic and print media have emerged in Lesotho, which are fairly independent from the state, although they are highly concentrated in the Maseru and the National Radio station is the only one that has national coverage. This has helped to extend the freedom of expression in the country. Further, media coverage and reporting has helped to ensure transparency and accountability in the governance process. Nevertheless, continued capacity building to the media is required in order to ensure responsible coverage and reporting of developments in the country.

Lesothos democracy has had its share of political instability since independence. Nevertheless, the successful general elections of May 2002 resulted in a return to democratic rule. This has enabled opposition parties to take seats in Parliament with a total of ten political parties now represented in the National Assembly essentially due to the MMP model on the basis which the elections were conducted. It can, therefore, be observed that political tolerance is growing in Lesotho and this is supported by the provisions of the Constitution which recognise peoples democratic rights of assembly as well as freedom of choice and expression.

The emergence of Coalition politics based on the 2012 electoral outcomes resulted in Hang-Parliament that severely challenged the political architecture of Lesotho. This meant that the election results could not be accommodated by the constitution and state institutions.

Political tensions ran high in the landlocked country since June 2014 when Thabane suspended the country's parliament to avoid a no-confidence vote amid feuding in the two-year-old coalition government. Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing had vowed to form a new coalition that would oust Thabane.

As a result of the political and security crisis in late 2014, Lesothos political parties agreed to hold early elections in February 2015. Although Lesothos 2012 parliamentary elections were generally orderly and peaceful, instances of unrest related to the election were possible, including political rallies, demonstrations, polling stations, and crowds of any kind.

The United Nations in Lesotho and the Heads of Mission strongly encouraged all political leaders to seize the opportunity and, mindful of the national interest, collaborate towards enhancing political stability in the country. They said this in a joint statement released on 18 February 2017 following the return of the opposition leaders in the country. Leaders of opposition who were returned from a two-year exile in South Africa are Dr Motsoahae Thabane of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Chief Thesele 'Maseribane of the Basotho National Party (BNP) and Mrs. Keketso Rants'o of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL).

The Head of State, His Majesty King Letsie III declared June 03, 2017 as date for the holding of the snap elections. The dissolution of the ninth parliament came as result of the advice by the Prime Minister Dr Pakalitha Mosisili following the passing of motion of no-confidence against him by the opposition members in the National Assembly early this month. For the past five years, Mosisili had been locked in a power struggle with Tom Thabane, his bitter rival.

Thabane, who fled to South Africa in 2014, said soldiers planned to assassinate him as part of a coup attempt. Over 1.25 million registered voters were due to elect 120 parliamentarians from 1,365 candidates belonging to 27 political parties. Critics accuse the national army of favoring Mosisili. Concerns about the role of the army in Lesotho's elections lingered, despite earlier assurances from Southern African Development Community (SADC) that the army would be confined to the barracks.

This was the third elections in five years. The snap elections follow the February 2015 also snap elections that resulted to the formation of the seven political parties coalition government led by Prime Minister Mosisili. Lesotho voted barely two years after a motion of no confidence passed by the National Assembly against Mosisili. Media freedom in Lesotho had been under intimidation with radio stations taken off-air in what has been construed as a move by government move to stifle growing dissent. Media suppression, a crackdown on radio stations and incessant threats to journalists have in recent times become prominent.

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) set a target of 85 percent in terms voter turnout, BUT only 46 percent of voters cast their votes. If there is apathy from the citizens, the government is not held to account, it becomes corrupt, and it becomes irresponsible. The competition was high between the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Democratic Congress (DC),the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LDC), and the Alliance of Democrats (AD). These parties won with huge margins in the constituencies of their leaders. This means the focus is on the leaders.

In the Maseru constituency more than 19 parties contested. But the majority of them garnered zero percent while the winning party got a large part of the votes. Those other parties are basically non-existent. They can't even be voted for by their own political agents. It means they are bogus parties. There are a lot of bogus political parties in this country.

As he lost popularity, Mosisili who leads the Democratic Congress (DC) teamed up with the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) of outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing and the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD). The opposition Thabane-led pact included the Basotho National Party (BNP), the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the Alliance of Democrats (AD).

The snap elections on 03 June 2017 saw Prime Minister Mosisili lose executive power to All Basotho Convention (ABC) leader and former premier Thomas Thabane. The Mosisili-led election pact picked up 44 parliamentary seats, while its adversaries declared they would form a new coalition government after they won 63 parliamentary seats. This ushered Lesotho into a new political era, but the outgoing Pakalitha Mosisili government insisted on setting terms for the new administration after losing the election on the heels of its earlier loss of a vote of no confidence on 01 March 2017. Metsing publicly called for the protection of the Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) the army and air force of Lesotho against the incoming Thabane regime.

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