The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) won the majority in parliament in the May 23 1998 general elections, leaving the once-dominant Basotho National Party (BNP) and Basotholand Congress Party (BCP) far behind in total votes. Although international observers as well as a regional commission declared the elections to have reflected the will of the people, many members of the opposition have accused the LCD of electoral fraud. The 1998 elections were the third multiparty elections in Lesotho's history. The LCD, BNP, and BCP remain the principal rival political organizations in Lesotho. Distinctions and differences in political orientation between the major parties have blurred in recent years.
Nevertheless, after political riots following the disputed 1998, an all-party forum called the Interim Political Authority was formed to level ground for the next poll. It proposed the restructuring of the Independent Electoral Commission, which happened and the change of the model from pure First-Past-the-Post System to Mixed Member Proportional Representation.
In the May 25, 2002 general elections, the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy was re-elected by majority, winning all but one of the 80 constituency-based seats. 40 compensatory seats under the Proportional Representation were shared among nine opposition parties.
The constitution provides for an independent judicial system. The judiciary is made up of the High Court, the Court of Appeal, magistrate's courts, and traditional courts that exist predominately in rural areas. There is no trial by jury; rather, judges make rulings alone, or, in the case of criminal trials, with two other judges as observers. The constitution also protects basic civil liberties, including freedom of speech, association, and the press; freedom of peaceful assembly; and freedom of religion.
For administrative purposes, Lesotho is divided into 10 districts, each headed by a district secretary and a district military officer appointed by the central government and the RLDF, respectively.
conventional long form: Kingdom of Lesotho
conventional short form: Lesotho
Data code: LT
Government type: parliamentary constitutional monarchy
Administrative divisions: 10 districts; Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka
Independence: 4 October 1966 (from UK)
National holiday: Independence Day, 4 October (1966)
Constitution: 2 April 1993
Legal system: based on English common law and Roman-Dutch law; judicial review of legislative acts in High Court and Court of Appeal; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: King LETSIE III (since 7 February 1996); note - King LETSIE III formerly occupied the throne from November 1990 to February 1995, while his father was in exile
head of government: Prime Minister Pakalitha MOSISILI (since 23 May 1998)
elections: none; according to the constitution, the leader of the majority party in the assembly automatically becomes prime minister; the monarch is hereditary, but, under the terms of the constitution which came into effect after the March 1993 election, the monarch is a "living symbol of national unity" with no executive or legislative powers; under traditional law the college of chiefs has the power to determine who is next in the line of succession, who shall serve as regent in the event that the successor is not of mature age, and may even depose the monarch
bicameral Parliament consists of the Senate (33 members - 22 principal chiefs and 11 other members appointed by the ruling party) and the Assembly (80 seats; members elected by popular vote for five-year terms); note - number of seats in the Assembly rose from 65 to 80 in the May 1998 election
elections: last held 23 May 1998 (next to be held in 2000; date to be determined by Interim Political Authority)
election results: percent of vote by party - LCD 61%; seats by party - LCD 79, BNP 1
note: results contested; opposition parties claimed the election was fraudulent and staged a coup; Southern African Development Community (SADC) forces intervened in September 1998 and restored order; the Interim Political Authority (IPA) was set up in December 1998 to create a new electoral system and conduct new elections within 18 months
Judicial branch: High Court, chief justice appointed by the monarch; Court of Appeal; Magistrate's Court; customary or traditional court
Political parties and leaders: Basotho National Party or BNP [Maj. Gen. Justine Metsing LEKHANYA]; Basotholand Congress Party or BCP [Molapo QHOBELA, leader (currently suspended), Ntsukunyane MPHANYA, secretary general]; Lesotho Congress for Democracy or LCD [Dr. Pakalitha MOSISILI, leader; Shakhane MOKHEHLE, secretary general] - the governing party; United Democratic Party or UDP [Charles MOFELI]; Marematlou Freedom Party or MFP and Setlamo Alliance [Vincent MALEBO]; National Progressive Party or NPP [Chief Peete Nkoebe PEETE]; Sefate Democratic Party or SDP [Bofihla NKUEBE]
International organization participation: ACP, AfDB, C, CCC, ECA, FAO, G-77, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, ILO, IMF, Intelsat (nonsignatory user), Interpol, IOC, ITU, NAM, OAU, OPCW, SACU, SADC, UN, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO
Flag description: divided diagonally from the lower hoist side corner; the upper half is white, bearing the brown silhouette of a large shield with crossed spear and club; the lower half is a diagonal blue band with a green triangle in the corner