Lesotho votes in tight three-way race
MASERU: Lesotho’s one million voters went to the polls Saturday in a tight general election where bitter personal rivalries among the three main party leaders have overshadowed worries about jobs and poverty.
Polls were set to close at 5:00 pm (1500 GMT) after 10 hours of voting across this mountainous kingdom in which most people live as farmers in isolated villages where horses far outnumber cars.
Voters began arriving long before dawn, many walking over hills and mountains while wrapped in blankets to wait in the cold outside schools and churches to cast their ballots.
The three main party leaders were all once allies whose falling out centred on the refusal of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili to hand over the reins of power.
Within the Lesotho Congress for Democracy, which Mosisili brought to power in 1998, tensions over his leadership sparked a split with the premier forming his own party in February.
He is asking voters to give him another term with his new Democratic Congress party, campaigning on Lesotho’s relative stability on his watch, which came after a long dictatorship and a rocky period of monarchy.
But a Gallup poll released last month ranked Mosisili among Africa’s five most despised leaders, with only 39 percent of those surveyed approving of his job performance — placing him alongside the likes of Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe.
His main rival is the new LCD leader, former communications minister Mothejoa Metsing, who led the movement to remove Mosisili as party leader.
Hoping to benefit from the split in the ruling party is opposition leader Tom Thabane, who broke away from LCD to form the opposition All Basotho Convention in 2006 after yet another feud with Mosisili.
Lost in the clash of personalities are the worries of most ordinary Basotho. More than half of the nation’s two million people live in poverty.
Textile factories and diamond mines are the only major industries, but jobs are so scarce that many seek work in South Africa, which completely surrounds this landlocked nation.
Three quarters of homes have no electricity, one third have no running water, and nearly a quarter of adults is HIV-positive. Many still travel by horse or donkey, bracing against the early winter cold by wrapping themselves in traditional blankets. Despite the bucolic image, many voters said they want more jobs and better public services. afp