Cape Town — Polling stations in Lesotho's hotly-contested election have closed, with experts suggesting it will lead to a hung Parliament in which no party enjoys a majority. In that event, Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili could cling to power if a coalition government cannot be formed, says one analyst.
Agence France-Presse reports that voting ended at 5 PM local time Saturday, with vote counting scheduled to begin immediately at each polling station. Results will be tallied in Maseru and the final result is expected on Monday, adds the agency.
The leader of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Mothetjoa Metsing, was reported by the Lesotho News Agency (LENA) as saying the peaceful environment in which voting took place showed that Lesotho's democracy is maturing. LENA recorded some instances of "multiple registration" of voters but said a European Union observer said during voting that in general the process went smoothly.
The three key contenders for power are the LCD, the Democratic Congress - recently formed by Mosisili after he broke away from the LCD in a leadership dispute - and the All Basotho Convention.
The Lesotho news service, Public Eye Daily, reported before voting began that political analysts are predicting that no party will have the outright majority that would be necessary for a one-party government.
The national coordinator of Development for Peace Education, Sofonea Shale, told the Public Eye he was sure there would be a coalition government.
"Maybe the politics of arrogance have come to an end, and we'd be turning a new page based on politics of negotiation," he was reported as saying. "A coalition government is highly likely, which is why I'm saying it's time for a new era. A coalition needs parties to negotiate."
However, a South African analyst said Mosisili could stay in power indefinitely in the event that no party or coalition could secure 51 percent of the 120 seats in Parliament.
Professor Nqosa Mahao, dean of the Faculty of Commerce, Law and Management at the University of the Witwatersrand, said in Maseru that while the constitution required a coalition or a party to have a majority of seats, it was silent on what should happen in the event of a hung parliament.
Eighteen parties have contested the election: the All Basotho Convention, Basotho Batho Democratic Party, Basotho Congress Party, Basotho Democratic National Party, Basotho National Party, Areka Covenant Front for Development, Lesotho Congress for Democracy, Lesotho Workers' Party, Lesotho People's Congress, Marematlou Freedom Party, National Independent Party, Popular Front for Democracy, Democratic Congress, All Democratic Corporation, Sankatana Social Democratic Party, Africa Unity Movement, Lekhotla La Mekhoa le Moetlo.