Lesotho holds early voting ahead of key electionsBy AFP | Sunday, May 20 2012 at 13:54
Lesotho held early voting Saturday, one week before the mostly hotly contested general elections since the 1998 polls that degenerated into looting and sparked a South African intervention.
The election comes just three months after Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili broke away from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), the party that he led in power since 1998.
He left after a pitched leadership battle with former communications minister Mothejoa Metsing, who now heads the LCD. Mosisili formed his own Democratic Congress and stayed in power by convincing a majority of parliamentarians to follow him.
They are now facing their first electoral test in a three-way battle with LCD and the All Basotho Convention (ABC). Without any polling data, the race is seen as a toss-up.
A small minority of the country's roughly one million registered voters -- mainly security services, health workers and media -- were allowed to cast ballots early, sending many travelling through Lesotho's mountain roads to their hometowns to vote.
Balloting proceeded peacefully, although worries for the voter roll emerged as some found their names weren't on the final list.
Independent Electoral Commission announced on state radio that the errors would be corrected before the full election on May 26, and said anyone turned away Saturday would be allowed to cast a ballot next weekend.
Politics in Lesotho, a tiny nation of two million completely surrounded by South Africa, are driven by personal rivalries.
Mr Mosisili originally took power in 1998 elections, after defecting from yet another party. Observers deemed the vote free and fair, but opposition protests turned violent and sparked a military intervention led by South Africa to restore order.
Voting usually proceeds smoothly, but disputes can turn violent. Electoral reforms have soothed grumblings about the division of seats from the last elections in 2007.
But amid the dispute, gunmen in 2009 staged an attack on his official residence that left four people dead. Eight people are standing trial over the military-style assault.
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Beyond the ballot