Cape Town — Lesotho's election results were on a knife-edge on Tuesday morning, with the ruling Democratic Congress (DC) under pressure to form a coalition to retain power.
With 78 of 80 constituencies declared, the DC had won 39 seats. The All Basotho Convention (ABC), whose support has surged to make it the country's biggest opposition party, had 26 seats, and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) 12 seats.
The Popular Front for Democracy, a tiny opposition party, had a single seat.
Even if the DC wins the remaining two seats, it will not necessarily be able to take power on its own, since 40 more seats need to be allocated to parties on the basis of the proportion of the vote they won.
Lesotho has a "mixed member proportional representation" electoral system, similar to those of Germany and New Zealand, under which most members of Parliament are chosen in constituencies, but the remainder are allocated according to party lists.
The Lesotho Times quoted experts Tuesday as saying the LCD "is likely to be heavily compensated with proportional representation seats because it came second in most constituencies."
If the ABC and the LCD win enough extra seats in this way, they could block the DC from reaching the 61 seats required in a 120-seat Parliament to form a government on its own.
Coalition talks among the bitterly-divided Basotho political leadership are likely to be tough going.
The Democratic Congress is less than 12 months old. It was established earlier this year by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili after an irreconcilable leadership dispute opened up in the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, which he had led in government since 1998.
During the election campaign, the new LCD leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, reportedly rejected the idea of a unity government.
And the All Basotho Convention is also the product of a split from the LCD, led by former foreign minister Tom Thabane in 2006.