MASERU- Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili emerged as the most powerful player in the country’s election but failed to secure a wide enough margin to form a government, results on Wednesday showed.
The inconclusive results from the weekend election has left many in the landlocked southern African highland kingdom fearing a repeat of the violence that followed a disputed poll in 1998.
Mosisili, who has ruled for 14 years, saw his Democratic Congress party winning 41 of 80 constituency seats and seven proportional seats – with the 48 total seats falling short of the 61 needed to form a government.
The opposition All Basotho Convention came in second, winning a total of 30 seats.
Three opposition parties have unveiled an anti-Mosisili coalition, setting the stage for a rerun of 1998, when post-poll wrangling led to weeks of unrest that ultimately triggered military intervention by neighbouring South Africa and Botswana to restore order.
At least 58 locals and eight South African soldiers died in that fighting and large parts of the capital Maseru were damaged.
Since independence from Britain in 1966, Lesotho – entirely surrounded by South Africa – has undergone several military coups although the army and police told election monitors before the poll they would act professionally and not take sides.
Soldiers have been patrolling Maseru this week. It was not clear who had ordered them in.
Prolonged unrest would put a dent in the $4 billion economy, which is forecast to expand at 4 percent this year due to a boom in diamond mining and a recovery in the farming sector after serious flooding in 2011.
Besides a slice of regional customs receipts, Lesotho’s big earner is hydropower exported to South Africa from the massive mountain ranges that have made it a favourite of trivia fans as “the world’s highest country” – its lowest point is 1,380 metres (4,528 feet) above sea level.