Free Elections and Political Instability in Lesotho

Since 1993, Lesotho has had six free elections. Five have been followed by
episodes of coercive regional diplomacy or military intervention to maintain
order or sustain the elected government. Two of these interventions have
occurred as Lesotho’s electoral system was being transformed from a first-past-the-post dominant party system to a mixed member proportional
pattern, and a third intervention is presently underway. This essay contends
that the effort to remedy the prior lack of inclusiveness in Parliament has
accentuated the fissiparous proclivities within Lesotho’s political culture.
Following the 2012 and 2015 elections, greater fragmentation among
political parties led to hung parliaments and coalition governments with
minimal parliamentary majorities. This essay questions whether Staffan
Lindberg’s conceptual model regarding the link between the consolidation
of democracy and the experience of successive free and fair elections can
adequately explain Lesotho’s trajectory. Remarkably, the transfers of power
by Pakalitha Mosisili to Motsoahae Thomas Thabane in 2012, and by
Thabane back to Mosisili in 2015, were the first such exchanges between
an incumbent government and an opposition party in southern Africa
during the post-liberation era. Whether this positive development might be
translated into more effective governance and regard for democratic norms
will be explored.

File Type: pdf
Categories: Journal of African Elections
Tags: coalition governments, electoral systems, lesotho, proportional representation, SADC
journal of african elections vol14 number 2 transparent democratic governance in africa