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Last Updated: Saturday, 17 February 2007, 19:55 GMT
Lesotho holds legislative polls
Voters line up as they wait for the polls to open in the village of Machache, east of the capital Maseru
Voter turnout seems high, early reports say
Voting has been taking place in the southern Africa kingdom of Lesotho in what reports say is likely to be a closely fought parliamentary election.

The governing Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) is facing a challenge from a newly-formed opposition party.

The polls were called after ex-foreign minister Tom Thabane resigned from the governing party in October and took 17 other MPs with him.

He is promising to tackle hunger, poverty, unemployment and corruption.

The early turnout appears to be high in the hotly disputed election, reports say.

One voter said it was time for a change.

"I feel happy that once again I have this chance to vote, I first voted in 1965," Mamorakabimo Moraka, 69, told the AFP news agency.

"I want to vote because I need change, change that will bring development to our country."

Results are expected early on Sunday.

Narrow majority

The opposition alleges that the prime minister, Pakalitha Mosisili, called early elections to stem defections from his party.

Lesotho map

Some opposition parties like the Basotholand African National Congress (Banc) have expressed concern that the ruling party and the electoral commission might have rigged the polls in favour of the LCD.

However, Premier Mosisili has denied the claims and expressed confidence that the LCD will return to power.

He has also accused the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party of "working in cahoots with foreign elements to destabilise the country".

The ruling LCD party now only has a narrow majority in parliament with 61 of the 120 seats.

Lesotho, a landlocked country within South Africa, has almost 50% unemployment and a third of its adult population are infected with HIV/Aids - one of the highest infection rates in the world, says the BBC's southern Africa correspondent Peter Biles.

Its garment industry has also been hard hit by competition from China, and the removal of textile quotas.


SEE ALSO
Country profile: Lesotho
17 Oct 06 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Lesotho
20 Dec 06 |  Country profiles

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