/ 30 November 2006

Lesotho gears up for 2007 elections

The tiny Southern African kingdom of Lesotho will hold elections on February 17 2007 following Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s decision to dissolve Parliament, state-run radio said on Thursday.

The government also said the last day for registering voters would be December 8.

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

Some analysts say the decision to dissolve the 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 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.

Thabane on Thursday criticised the date, saying small opposition parties did not have enough time to prepare for the polls.

”We will have to observe the last date of registration and that of elections,” he said. ”But for under-resourced parties it is going to be difficult to mobilise people to register within this short time.”

Lesotho gained independence from Britain on October 4 1966 after almost a century and endured repeated political violence, a military coup and further upheavals.

South Africa and Botswana briefly occupied the country in 1998, allegedly to try to restore order after disputed elections that year. The last elections in 2002 are generally deemed to have been the fairest ever. — AFP