/ 25 November 2006

Lesotho dissolves Parliament ahead of elections

Lesotho’s King Letsie III on Friday dissolved the Parliament of the tiny mountainous kingdom in Southern Africa, paving the way for elections next February.

The monarch, ”acting in accordance with the advice of the prime minister [Pakalitha Mosisili] …. has dissolved Parliament with effect from today,” state radio said, quoting a communiqué from the prime minister’s office.

It said the date of the elections will be announced on Wednesday.

A member of Lesotho’s three-member Independent Electoral Commission said preparations for next year’s general election, originally scheduled for April or May, are already afoot.

”We are ready. In any case we knew all the time that elections will be held next year around April or May,” Limakatso Mokhothu said. ”The dissolution of Parliament … means that elections will be held within 90 days from [this] date.

”Registration of voters is going well now after we experienced some hiccups due to lack of registration equipment such as films. But now we are on the right track.”

Out of a population of roughly 1,8-million, about 900 000 voters have registered for the elections in this country surrounded by and economically dependent on South Africa.

Some analysts say the decision to dissolve Parliament and hold early elections was spurred by the recent launch of a new political party, the All Basotho Convention, by former foreign minister Tom Thabane who resigned in October.

Thabane (65) quit citing ”poor service delivery and lack of implementation” and crossed the floor in Lesotho’s 120-member National Assembly with 18 lawmakers from the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy.

This beefed up the opposition ranks to 59 against the ruling party’s 61. Thabane is seen by some as a threat to Mosisili’s hold on power. — Sapa-AFP