Lesotho probes soldiers' presence near polling stations

Electoral commission says presence of armed soldiers intimidated some voters and surprised observers.

    Lesotho probes soldiers' presence near polling stations
    The snap election was called when Prime Minister Mosisili, 72, lost a no-confidence vote in March [Siphiwe Sibeko/Reuters]

    Election officials in the mountain kingdom of Lesotho said on Sunday they were investigating why armed soldiers were deployed at many polling stations in Saturday's election.

    The army has often been accused of interfering in politics in Lesotho, a landlocked African country of two million people that has been hit by attempted coups and instability in recent years.

    "The nation, the voters and even the observers were surprised... they felt that some voters were intimidated," Independent Electoral Commission spokesman Tuoe Hantsi told reporters.

    "The law dictates who should be at the polling stations, and (the soldiers) caused confusion."

    READ MORE: Old rivals view for power in Lesotho's snap election

    Saturday's election was seen as a two-horse race between old rivals Pakalitha Mosisili and Thomas Thabane, who have both served as prime minister.

    Thabane fled an attempted military coup in 2014 when he was in power, and analysts say the army could favour Mosisili winning the vote.

    The snap election was called when Prime Minister Mosisili, 72, lost a no-confidence vote in March after his seven-party coalition government broke up.

    As vote counting began on Sunday, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) regional body expressed concern over the army's presence.

    "We will be seeking an explanation from the army as to why the soldiers were placed at voting stations," said Augustine Mahiga, head of the SADC observer mission.

    The electoral commission said some voters felt intimidated by armed soldiers at polling stations [Reuters]

    The results, due out this week, are expected to lead to a coalition government, with Thabane, 77, seen as the narrow favourite to emerge as the winner.

    Thabane's All Basotho Congress party and the Alliance Democrats of Monyane Moleleki, a former police minister, have been in talks to form a possible government.

    Mosisili's Democratic Congress party could join forces with the Lesotho Congress of Democracy and the Popular Front for Democracy.

    Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy ruled by nominal King Letsie III, who has no formal power, and has a mixed parliamentary system.

    Saturday's vote was the third general election since 2012 after years of political in-fighting and coalition collapses that have undermined attempts to tackle dire poverty and unemployment.

    SOURCE: News agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Why some African Americans are moving to Africa

    Escaping systemic racism: Why I quit New York for Accra

    African-Americans are returning to the lands of their ancestors as life becomes precarious and dangerous in the USA.

    Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

    Why Jerusalem is not the capital of Israel

    No country in the world recognises Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

    US: Muslims to become second-largest religious group

    US: Muslims to become second-largest religious group

    By 2050 the number of Muslims is projected to reach 8.1 million, or 2.1 percent, of the total US population.