Lesotho citizens have voted in a parliamentary election that political analysts said could see the ruling party lose power after years of political instability that the Southern African mountain kingdom’s legislators have failed to resolve.
Friday’s election has gone ahead despite a deadlock in parliament on a gamut of constitutional reforms that were meant to be enacted ahead of the vote to bring order to Lesotho’s fractious politics.
The All Basotho Convention (ABC) has run the country of 2.14 million people since 2017, but divisions within the party have seen two prime ministers installed over five years.
Defections, meanwhile, have left the party vulnerable to its opposition rivals, the Democratic Congress (DC) and the new Revolution for Prosperity (RFP), which is led by businessman Sam Matekane.
“These elections will be highly contested and by the look of things, the DC and RFP will be neck and neck,” said Lesotho political analyst Lefu Thaela, who saw the ABC trailing in third place.
Speaking to Reuters before polls opened, Thaela said the DC was likely to get the most votes but if it did not win an outright majority, the outgoing ABC could emerge as the kingmaker.
Some voters who turned up early at the polling stations said they hoped to bring a change of government.
“Truth be told, no government has ever fulfilled my aspirations and I am very disappointed,” said Semoko Monare, who has been voting since 1993.
Surrounded on all sides by South Africa’s mountains, Lesotho’s high-altitude springs provide vital freshwater to its parched neighbour, supplying its commercial hub, Johannesburg.
In 2020, ABC leader Thomas Thabane stepped down as prime minister after being charged with the murder of his ex-wife. He denied any wrongdoing, and the charges were later dropped.
His successor, Moeketsi Majoro, declared a state of emergency in August after politicians failed to pass constitutional reforms to amend everything from the role of political parties and rules on floor-crossing in parliament to the appointment of senior officials and the prime minister’s role.
The reforms were supposed to make Lesotho less prone to political logjams but got stuck in one themselves.
Last month, Lesotho’s highest court ruled the state of emergency unconstitutional. The ABC has selected another leader, former health minister Nkaku Kabi, to contest its ticket.