Maseru (Lesotho) (AFP) — Lesotho’s King Letsie III dissolved parliament on Friday ahead of a February election designed to restore peace to the kingdom after an attempted coup.
The dissolution is part of a peace deal reached by a regional bloc, the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
“This shows that we are complying with the SADC roadmap to bring peace and security back to Lesotho,” Thabo Thakalekoala, spokesman for Prime Minister Tom Thabane, told AFP.
The tiny kingdom which is surrounded by South Africa, last held elections in 2012, which resulted in a shaky coalition government.
Matters came to a head with the August 30 putsch, when soldiers raided the official residence of Prime Minister Tom Thabane, causing him to flee into nearby South Africa. The attempted coup exposed friction between the Lesotho military and the police, pushing the country to the brink of a full-blown conflict.
Early last month, South Africa’s deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa helped broker a political agreement that re-opened parliament for the first time since June and pushed forward national elections by more than two years.
Though tensions have eased, police say they are still investigating recent claims that foreign “mercenaries” entered Lesotho to assassinate Thabane and other leaders.
The impoverished country with a population of just over two million is likely to turn to the international community for the funding of the vote.
The United Nations, which played a key facilitation role during the peaceful 2012 elections, is currently involved in voter education.
Concerns have already been raised about the validity of the voters roll and the participation of the army in transporting ballots to remote areas.
The army is still seen by many as being behind the August putsch.
According to the UN Resident Coordinator in Lesotho, Karla Hershey, “there is a time crunch,” ahead of the vote.
“They may have to accept the voter-registration rolls as is — as they did in 2012 — or with agreed amendments, so that these elections cannot be contested.”