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likely to stabilise Lesotho
10 March 2015
The short-lived coalition government of Tom Thabane
has now been succeeded by a new coalition led by
former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili, of the DC
party, who had run Lesotho for 14 years before
losing to Thabane in the 2012 elections.
Mosisili’s deputy prime minister will be Mothetjoa
Metsing, leader of the LCD, whose defection from
Thabane’s governing coalition precipitated the
That became a security crisis when army chief Tlali
Kamoli, loyal to Mosisili and Metsing, briefly
overthrew Thabane in a coup on August 30 last year.
Political accords brokered by Cyril Ramaphosa
worked, so far as they went. The elections were
peaceful. Thabane’s ABC party won more
constituencies – 40 out of 80 – than any other
But in Lesotho’s complex mixed voting system,
Mosisili and Metsing won enough of the extra 40
seats allocated by proportional representation, to
overtake Thabane’s coalition with the BNP.
That persuaded a few small parties to side with
Mosisili/Metsing to give them a five-seat majority.
A tenuous majority, especially because Metsing is a
notoriously unfaithful coalition partner, having
ditched Mosisili in 2012 to help Thabane win that
election, before dumping him in turn to help
Mosisili return to power this year. Watch that
Basotho have a rare ability to bend electoral
systems to their own peculiar turbulent politics.
Proportional representivity was introduced after the
1998 elections which were conducted entirely on a
first-past-the-past constituency basis.
The then ruling LCD won 78 of the 80 seats, despite
the opposition having won nearly 40 percent of the
This disproportionality of seats was held to be the
underlying cause of the opposition protests against
the results which grew into an army mutiny and an
incipient coup that was only prevented by a South
African military intervention that caused the loss
of about 80 lives.
As a result Lesotho introduced a measure of
proportional representivity which evolved into the
present system where the 40 proportional
representation seats are used to ensure that a
party’s total number of seats is proportional to its
Some have complained that the pendulum has now swung
too far the other way.
The electoral system is preventing the emergence of
strong governments which are too dependent on fickle
coalition partners and this has become a new source
of instability. Yet it is hard to see how a new
compromise could be found which addresses both
representivity and efficiency.
Lesotho’s real problem seems to be its army which
has meddled inappropriately in the country’s
politics ever since independence. Last week Mosisili
and Metsing said they would return Kamoli to his
post as army chief.
If that happened, he would almost certainly escape
any accountability for the coup and the death or
deaths which it caused, as well as for previous acts
of political violence.
He is a reckless and dangerous maverick and Thabane
and his supporters will not feel safe while he is at
the helm. Even some Basotho are now asking whether
the country actually needs an army.
Being entirely surrounded by South Africa, it really
faces no external military threat. And so the army
has instead turned its energies inwards, with
disastrous consequences for the country.
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