n Journal of African Elections - Free elections and political instability in Lesotho

Volume 14, Issue 2
  • ISSN : 1609-4700



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.

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