Maseru. — The results of Lesotho’s snap election following an alleged coup attempt last year trickled in slowly yesterday, with Prime Minister Thomas Thabane taking an early lead with nearly two thirds of the vote tallied.Saturday’s parliamentary poll, which was called two years ahead of schedule, passed without incident according to observers.
But hampered by manual counting and Lesotho’s mountainous terrain, the results were slow to come in yesterday.
The small mountain kingdom has been in crisis since June 2014, when Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a motion that would have seen him ousted from power after his fragile coalition government fell apart.
On August 30, soldiers attacked police headquarters, looting weapons and killing one officer.
Thabane described the violence as a coup attempt fuelled by the opposition and fled to neighbouring South Africa.
Both the military and opposition denied any bid to seize power.
Observers from both regional bloc the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Union have been monitoring the election, and 475 police from neighbouring countries have been deployed to keep the peace.
The army was confined to barracks during Saturday’s vote.
Counting closed at 1700 GMT yesterday, with 47 of the 80 constituencies up for grabs officially declared by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
Thabane’s All Basotho Convention took an early lead with 35 seats.
The Democratic Congress, led by former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, held ten.
The Lesotho Congress for Democracy party of Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing, whose differences with Thabane fractured their coalition, had two seats.
Lesotho has a mixed parliamentary system. Eighty lawmakers are voted into power by their constituents, while another 40 seats are distributed proportionally after the final results to ensure all parties are represented in parliament.
A party needs 61 of the 120 seats available to rule without being forced into a coalition.
The capital Maseru, an urban stronghold for Thabane, remained quiet Sunday.
Political posters had been taken down days before and the usually busy city centre was calm.
But as the city’s results were announced in the ABC’s favour, a convoy of supporters made their way through the streets in yellow party T-shirts, honking their horns and waving flags.
“In Lesotho, we don’t count the votes electronically, we count them manually,” IEC official Rethabile Pholo said of the slow count.
He said the process was made more difficult by Lesotho’s mountainous terrain, often requiring the use of helicopters.
Earlier, the IEC had said helicopters had been able to reach all of the most remote districts. But by late yesterday they said the weather had hampered some operations and several results were still to be collected from the most isolated areas. — AP.