Lesotho will be holding a general election on 3 June 2017 following a vote of no-confidence in Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on 1 March resulting in the dissolution of the coalition government.
Mosisili was ousted following a falling out with his former deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki who split from Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) party and formed a new party, the Alliance of Democrats (AD). The AD then formed a coalition agreement with the major opposition party which is headed up by former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s All Basotho Congress (ABC).
Thabane and Mosisili have been political rivals for several years, as Thabane ousted Mosisili during his first term as prime minister in the 2012 elections. In turn Mosisili was instrumental in disrupting Thabane’s coalition preceding the 2014 Lesotho political crisis during which Thabane fled to South Africa citing an alleged coup d’état being plotted by the nation’s military.
The recent vote of no confidence represents the second time in five years that a coalition government in Lesotho has collapsed; compounding the political uncertainty in the small Southern African nation.
This ongoing instability has raised concerns among Lesotho’s neighbors, and as result the Southern African Development Community (SADC) sent South Africa’s Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa to Lesotho to meet with political leaders, including the country’s monarch, King Letsie III. Ramaphosa was also SADC’s facilitator and representative in the talks to resolve the 2014 political crisis.
The ongoing political tensions have also led to concern among many of Lesotho’s regional neighbours, particularly South Africa ‒ whose borders entirely surround Lesotho ‒ and Botswana, which has expressed exasperation with Lesotho’s political leadership, even threatening to pull out of the SADC oversight committee for Lesotho.
The international community has also expressed concern with the Commonwealth (of which Lesotho is a member) dispatching its Secretary-General Patricia Scotland to meet with King Letsie III. The Commonwealth will be offering facilitation and election monitoring services during the 3 June vote.
Further concerns have been raised over reports of increasing political violence and media suppression, marked by a clampdown on radio stations in the country and threats against journalists.
Multiple observers have been anxious over whether or not the respective political parties will accept the result of the election. The Christian Council of Lesotho has called on stakeholders, including Mosisili, to sign an election pledge to accept the result regardless of who wins.
The country’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) has claimed to be sufficiently prepared to hold the election and promised that the vote will be free and fair. However, the IEC, is concerned over poor weather conditions and the potential impact a heavy snowfall could have on voter turnout.
Regardless of the election outcome it is unlikely Lesotho’s political stability will improve markedly. Given historical electoral trends another coalition government is expected to form, and the balance of power is expected to fall in favour of the ABC resulting in Thabane again leading a coalition government. Further, any coalition agreement could again shift before a full term of government is completed leading to another snap election and potentially another political crisis. This will continue to concern SADC, although the organisation seems unwilling to engage in any major intervention beyond facilitating talks.