Politics of Lesotho

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Politics of Lesotho takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic constitutional monarchy, whereby the Prime Minister of Lesotho is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Executive power is exercised by the government. Legislative power is vested in both the government and the two chambers of Parliament, the Senate and the National Assembly. The Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature.

Executive branch[edit]

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
King Letsie III 7 February 1996
Prime Minister Tom Thabane All Basotho Convention 16 June 2017

The Lesotho Government is a constitutional monarchy. The Prime Minister, Tom Thabane, is head of government and has executive authority. The King serves a largely ceremonial function; he no longer possesses any executive authority and is proscribed from actively participating in political initiatives. 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.

Legislative branch[edit]

Parliament has two chambers. The National Assembly has 120 members, elected for a five-year term, 80 in single-seat constituencies and 40 by proportional representation. The Senate has 33 nominated members.

Political parties and elections[edit]

e • d Results of the 26 May 2012 National Assembly of Lesotho elections
Party Votes % Seats +/–
Constituency PR Total
Democratic Congress (DC) 218,366 39.58 41 7 48 New
All Basotho Convention (ABC) 138,917 25.18 26 4 30 Increase13
Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) 121,076 21.94 12 14 26 Decrease36
Basotho National Party (BNP) 23,788 4.31 0 5 5 Increase2
Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) 11,166 2.02 1 2 3 Increase2
National Independent Party (NIP) 6,880 1.25 0 2 2 Decrease19
Lesotho Peoples' Congress (LPC) 5,021 0.91 0 1 1 Steady
Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) 3,433 0.62 0 1 1 Steady
Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) 3,300 0.60 0 1 1 Steady
Basotho Congress Party (BCP) 2,531 0.46 0 1 1 Steady
Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) 2,440 0.44 0 1 1 Steady
Lesotho Workers' Party (LWP) 2,408 0.44 0 1 1 Decrease9
All Democratic Corporation (ADC) 1,933 0.35 0 0 0 Steady
Lekhotla La Mekhoa le Moetlo (LMM) 1,691 0.31 0 0 0 Steady
Areka Covenant Front for Development (ACFD) 1,227 0.22 0 0 0 Steady
Sankatana Social Democratic Party (SSDP) 1,081 0.20 0 0 0 Steady
African Unity Movement (AUM) 714 0.13 0 0 0 Steady
White Horse Party (WHP) 252 0.05 0 0 0 Steady
Independents 5,502 1.00 0 0 0 Steady
Invalid/blank votes 12,725
Total 564,451 100.00 80 40 120
Registered voters/turnout 1,127,980 50.04
Source: Independent Electoral Commission, Independent Electoral Commission, African Elections Database

The Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) won the majority in parliament in the 23 May 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 25 May 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.

LCD was re-elected in the 2007 elections but lost power after the 2012 elections to a coalition headed by the All Basotho Convention.

Judicial branch[edit]

The constitution provides for an independent hierarchical judicial system. The judiciary is made up of the High Court of Lesotho, the Court of Appeal, magistrate's courts, and traditional (customary) courts which exist predominantly 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. [1]

The Court of Appeal is located in Maseru and consists of a President and 6 justices of Appeal.

The High Court has unlimited original jurisdiction over civil and criminal matters, as well as appellate jurisdiction from the lower courts and comprises a Chief Justice and other puisne judges. Parallel to the High Court is the Labour Court, which is a specialist court dealing exclusively with industrial and labour matters.

Magistrates Courts are presided over by judicial officers (magistrates) employed as civil servants. They are not courts of record and as such their decisions are not binding on future cases.

The Chief Justice and Justices of the Court of Appeal are appointed by the King on the advice of the Prime Minister. Puisne judges of the High Court are appointed by the King on the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. High Court judges may retire any time after attaining the age of 75 but may be removed from office by the King for malfeasance or infirmity.

Chief Justices
  • c. 1968–>1970 Hendrik Rudolf Jacobs (South African)
  • 1974–1975 Joas Tseliso Mapetla
  • 1976–?1986 Taufik Suliman Cotran (afterwards Chief Justice of Belize, 1986)
  • 1987–1991 Brendan Peter Cullinan
  • <1994–2002 Joseph Lebona Kheola
  • 2002–2004 Mahapela Lelohla
    • 2004 Baptista Molai (acting)
    • 2013 Tseliso Monaphathi (acting)
  • 2014-date Nthomeng Majara

Administrative divisions[edit]

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. The districts are: Berea, Butha-Buthe, Leribe, Mafeteng, Maseru, Mohales Hoek, Mokhotlong, Qacha's Nek, Quthing, Thaba-Tseka

International organization participation[edit]

Lesotho is member of 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, United Nations, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNHCR, UNIDO, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ "The Law and Legal Research in Lesotho". Hauser Global Law School Program. Retrieved 5 March 2016.