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Tuesday, 28 May, 2002, 09:19 GMT 10:19 UK
Lesotho ruling party wins majority
Queue of voters
Turn-out was more than 70%
The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy has won 61 constituency seats in Saturday's poll, giving it a parliamentary majority, the Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) announced on Tuesday.

The IEC also says it has begun an audit of the results of the election, after opposition parties contested preliminary results that look set to give the ruling party a landslide victory.


Political parties will... have access to the information from this audit

IEC chairman Leshele Thoahlane
The Basotho National Party (BNP), which has the second largest number of votes, has threatened to boycott parliament.

In the last parliamentary poll four years ago, the LCD won a massive landslide, but the BNP refused to accept the result, and months of political crisis ensued.

A new electoral system was used this time which was intended to produce a more representative parliament.

'Free and fair'

In addition to 80 seats elected on a first-past-the-post basis, 40 seats will be allocated according to the share of votes each party receives nationally.

The only seat which has not gone to the LCD so far was won by the Lesotho People's Congress in the capital, Maseru.

Chairman of the IEC, Leshele Thoahlane (l) and the commissioner, Mogale Likate (r)
Final results are not expected until Thursday

Many people expected Lesotho's general election to be close, but as the results trickle in from around the country, the BBC's Richard Lee in Maseru says it is becoming increasingly clear that the ruling LCD is heading for another comprehensive victory.

"It's going to be a one-party parliament all over again... If the LCD goes to parliament unopposed, we will not participate in that parliament," the leader of the BNP, Major-General Justin Lekhanya, told Reuters news agency.

Observers, including delegations from southern Africa, Japan, Europe and the United States, have issued statements declaring that the election was free, fair and transparent.

But the BNP is not convinced, and an audit has begun.

"Political parties will be invited to participate in and have access to the information from this audit," IEC chairman Leshele Thoahlane said in a statement.

Mountains

Turn-out was high, with more than 70% of the 830,000 registered voters casting their ballots, according to the IEC.

Lesotho experienced months of instability following the 1998 poll, which culminated in a military intervention by troops from South Africa and Botswana.

Masera Hlaele, 95
Masera Hlaele, 95, prefers the rule of chiefs to politicians

This year, all the parties signed an electoral code of conduct committing themselves to respect the results.

Hopes that provisional results could be released on Monday evening have been dashed as the ballots in some polling stations in remote mountain areas will be collected by helicopter only on Tuesday.

Final results will be issued on Thursday, IEC chairman Leshele Thoahlane said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Opposition LPC leader, Kelebone Maope
"unfortunately there might be civil disobedience"
See also:

25 May 02 | Africa
24 May 02 | Country profiles
24 May 02 | Country profiles
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