Lesotho: Democracy Doesn't Work for Us, Say Basotho

A Nigerian goes to the polls.
8 September 2014

Cape Town — As Lesotho continues to teeter on the brink of political conflict, an opinion poll has been published showing that most Basotho have far more trust in religious and traditional leaders than in their political leaders.

Findings from an Afrobarometer survey carried out four months ago show that four in five Basotho reject military or one-person rule, but that more than half are not satisfied with the way democracy is working in the country.

Lesotho is currently ruled by a three-party coalition which excludes the biggest party in Parliament, but the coalition members are at odds with one another over the perceived failure of the leader of the largest coalition member, Prime Minister Tom Thabane, to consult adequately with other party leaders – especially Deputy Prime Minister Mothejoa Metsing.

Thabane fled the country 10 days ago after the army raided police stations and took over the streets of the capital, Maseru, on the orders of an army commander who is accused of backing Metsing. Regional leaders of the Southern African Development Community brokered his return but the government has still not secured full control over the military.

The Afrobarometer poll was carried out at a time when dissension within the coalition had been apparent for months.

In a key finding, three in every four people said elections were the best way of choosing leaders. But only three in 10 were satisfied with the way in which democracy worked in Lesotho at present, only one in three said the country was a "full democracy" or a democracy "with only minor problems", and only half said democracy was preferable to any other form of government.

Athough fewer than two in 10 people approved of military or one-person rule, tolerance for one-party rule was higher – one in three supported it.

Answering a question about how much they trusted particular institutions or individuals, respondents put religious and political leaders at the top of the list, the army and police in the middle, and politicians at the bottom.

Religious leaders were trusted by 82 percent of Basotho and traditional leaders by 73 percent. The army was trusted by 66 percent and the police by 57 percent (the poll was carried out before the events of the past 10 days). Prime Minister Thabane was trusted by 50 percent, Parliament by 44 percent, the ruling coalition by 43 percent and opposition parties by 27 percent.

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