afrol News, 1 December - Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has announced that the Kingdom is to hold anticipated elections on 17 February 2007, following a dissolution of parliament. Voters have only one week to register with local authorities. A split in the ruling party led to the sudden move.
Prime Minister Mosisili made this announcement on state broadcasting media on Thursday. He urged those not being among the kingdom's approximately 900,000 registered voters to report with local authorities by 8 December.
According to local analysts, Mr Mosisili had been moved to dissolve parliament after a split in Lesotho's traditionally ruling party - the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) - which he leads. The party split was starting to threaten the LCD's vast parliamentary majority.
The split came after Foreign Minister Tom Thabane resigned in October and left the LDC. Mr Thabane since that has founded his own All Basotho Convention (ABC). By know, at least 18 MPs from the ruling party have crossed over to the ABC, and the government feared that more could be on the moving.
The sudden move by Lesotho's powerful Prime Minister is seen as a way of limiting the ABC's and Mr Thabane's powers, as his new party will have little time to organise and raise funds before the 17 February polls. PM Mosisili seems to hope the ABC may be eradicated from the Maseru parliament as the LDC is favoured by Lesotho's British-inspired election system that over-represents big parties.
Not surprisingly, Mr Thabane has already registered a formal complaint with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), hoping the agency may agree that elections should be postponed to give the opposition a better chance to organise. The constitution however foresees that elections are held no later than 90 days after parliament is dissolved, giving the IEC little room for manoeuvres.
Given the sudden political turbulence, the Basotho are quite uncomfortable with the current outlook, having in mind the many violent election aftermaths in the Kingdom's short independent story. The first post-independence elections in 1970 saw its results annulled and the declaration of a national state of emergency.
Turbulent national party politics and a constant military threat from surrounding apartheid South Africa in 1986 led to a military coup. In 1994, political instability led to army and police mutinies and a short-lived royal coup. More political unrest followed in 1995 and 1997.
The 1998 multi-party elections however ended in a violent disaster that still is well remembered in Lesotho. Protests against the election results, army mutinies and political violence resulted in an intervention from South African and Batswana troops, which reinstated the officially elected government - not with destroying and looting the capital, Basotho eyewitnesses however claim.
The last troubled elections were those of May 2002, where the LDC won 54 percent of the vote, but nevertheless was given 79 of the 80 constituency-based seats in parliament. The opposition however won a total of 41 out of all 120 seats. This unfair result of the electoral law was protested by the opposition, but the Kingdom narrowly avoided a return to violence.
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