By Al Jazeera
Vote counting has begun in the southern African mountain kingdom of Lesotho, after a snap election aimed at resolving a political crisis triggered by an alleged coup bid.
Tensions were high ahead of Saturday’s parliamentary poll, which was called two years ahead of schedule, but election day passed off without incident, according to observers.
“Everything I’ve come across tells me everything has gone extremely well,” Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of neighbouring South Africa, who is acting as regional mediator, said shortly after polls closed at 15:00 GMT.
“From my side it is congratulations to the people of Lesotho for having come this far to hold a peaceful election,” Ramaphosa said.
Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also said the election had proceeded largely without incident, although some ballot papers in two of over 2,000 polling stations did not have the names of all candidates.
“The voting has been proceeding peacefully and according to plan,” said IEC chairman Justice Mahapela Lehohla.
According to local media, about 1.2 million people – out of a population of 2.2 million – were registered to vote.
Lesotho has been in crisis since June 2014, when Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a motion that would have seen him ousted from power after his fragile coalition government fell apart.
On August 30, soldiers attacked police headquarters, looting weapons and killing one officer.
Thabane described the violence as a coup attempt fuelled by the opposition and fled to neighbouring South Africa.
Both the military and opposition denied any bid to topple him.
The army was confined to barracks during Saturday’s vote.
Ramaphosa was appointed by the regional bloc Southern African Development Community (SADC) last year to try broker an end to the deadlock.
Landlocked Lesotho is completely surrounded by South Africa and is heavily dependent on its bigger neighbour in economic terms.
Analysts have warned the election could turn violent if any one party wins an outright majority – particularly Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC).
Two other parties – the Democratic Congress led by former prime minister Pakalitha Mosisili and the Basotho National Party (BNP) – are contesting the parliamentary elections.
Source:: Al Jazeera