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The political landscape has changed



The number of political parties in Lesotho has increased significantly from the eight that participated in the first democratic election in 1993 after the military rule. That has been especially true between 2015 and 2022. Lesotho now has over 45 political parties that are currently registered with the Independent Electoral Commission. Against this background, there are divergent views about the uniqueness of this election compared to the previous ones. Despite the increased number of participants in this election, I think the race is still between the All Basotho Convention (ABC), which currently dominates the National Assembly and runs the country, and its current coalition partner the Democratic Congress (DC). The Movement for Economic Change (MEC), Alliance for Democrats (AD), Basotho Action Party (BAP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) will likely emerge as the kingmakers. Some people argue that the political landscape has widened, thus expanding the competition beyond the two major parties. I am not a political scientist but given my activism in politics I think it’s more plausible that the smaller political parties will upset the top two parties, given the changed political landscape. This year’s general elections will be very interesting and hard to predict given the fact that voting dynamics have changed in urban areas where the ABC dominated in the previous elections. This week I wish to look at the dynamics that will be at play in the coming elections. Firstly, it’s important to remember the former leader and founder of the ABC, Thomas Motsoahae Thabane, seen as the messiah by urban people, the man who had promised them heaven on earth, dismally failed to deliver and quit politics. His government was the most corrupt that Basotho had ever seen. This is the government that stole wool and mohair from poor farmers. Secondly, the fact that the number of new political parties has increased significantly could mean that the plans of the two main parties will be derailed. In the main, the new parties were formed by politicians who were once associated with the ABC, the party that dominated the urban areas in the past two decades. Some of these new parties enjoy a good following. Mokhotlong MP, Tefo Mapesela, who dumped the ruling ABC, formed his own party called the Basotho Patriotic Party (BPP). The former deputy leader of the ABC, Professor Nqosa Mahao, has also launched a new political party called the Basotho Action Party (BAP). ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba, the Harvest FM station owner, also formed her United for Change (UC) party. In all probability, their supporters and their sympathisers might vote for them, drawing away votes from the ABC. Thirdly, the alliance that increased numbers for the ABC in urban areas has been dismantled. The ABC had formed an alliance with urban population groups like the taxi industry, teachers, radio stations, churches, public servants and factory workers. The disconnect in the alliance poses a challenge to the ABC’s dominance in urban areas. Fourthly, the ABC split will most definitely weaken its dominance in urban areas. The ABC has been forced to break into several parts giving an opportunity for its rival DC to close the gap. Therefore, the ABC split is a reality that cannot be ignored. Fifthly, the ABC has disappointed too many voters. They went to vote against Pakalitha Mosisili in the last elections hoping that the ABC will save the day. Hatred for Mosisili motivated many urban voters to go and vote. Urban voters did not want Mosisili. But unfortunately Mosisili is no longer the leader of the DC. The DC has a new leader in Mathibeli Mokhothu. Thabane, the messiah, is also no longer the leader of the ABC. Many people had high hopes because of Thabane’s resume. Another factor which is hard to ignore is voter apathy. While it is true that many Basotho are either members or supporters of the ABC, DC, LCD, MEC and the BNP, the bad state of the country, the depressed economy, a lack of service delivery, broken infrastructure and neglect has dampened the spirit of the electorate. Voters might therefore just elect to stay away. Already, some on social media platforms have indicated that they will not vote due to lack of service delivery. Another related point is that other political parties could win constituencies in the urban areas due to a combination of factors. They would count on their own members, other sympathisers who do not belong to any political party, new voters, as well as some disgruntled members from the ABC. In conclusion, the urban political compass has always been guided by several factors in my opinion: access to education; access to media; the area’s switch from agricultural to service-based industries; and the highly industrialised areas. These above mentioned factors will influence urban vote in this year’s general elections.

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