Lesotho gained independence on October 4, 1966. In January 1970 the
ruling Basotho National Party (BNP) looked set to lose the first post-independence
general elections when Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan annulled the election.
He refused to cede power to the Basotho Congress Party (BCP) and imprisoned
The BNP ruled by decree until January 1986 when a military coup forced
them out of office. The Military Council that came into power granted executive
powers to King Moshoeshoe II, which was until then a ceremonial monarch.
In 1987, however, the King was forced into exile after a falling
out with the army. His son was installed as King Letsie III.
The Chairman of the military junta, Major General Metsing Lekhanya,
was ousted in 1991 and then replaced by Major General Phisoane Ramaema,
who handed power to a democratically elected government of the BCP in 1993.
Moshoeshoe II returned from exile in 1992 as an ordinary citizen. His son
abdicated in his favor in 1995, but Moshoeshoe II died in a car accident
in 1996 and was again succeeded by his son, Letsie III. The ruling
BCP split over leadership disputes in 1997.
Prime Minister Ntsu Mokhehle formed a new party, the Lesotho Congress
for Democracy (LCD), and was followed by a majority of Members of Parliament,
which enabled him to form a new government. The LCD won the general elections
in 1998 under the leadership of Pakalitha Mosisili, who had succeeded Mokhehle
as party leader. Despite the elections being pronounced free and fair by
local and international observers and a subsequent special commission appointed
by SADC, the opposition political parties rejected the results.
Opposition protest in the country intensified, culminating in a violent
demonstration outside the royal palace in August 1998. Looting, casualties,
and widespread destruction of property followed. When junior members of
the armed services mutinied in September, the government requested a SADC
task force to intervene to prevent a coup and restore stability.
A military group of South African and Botswana troops entered the country
in September, put down the mutiny and withdrew in May 1999.
An Interim Political Authority (IPA), charged with reviewing the electoral
structure in the country, was created in December 1998. The IPA devised
a proportional electoral system to ensure that there be opposition in the
National Assembly. The new system retained the existing 80 elected Assembly
seats, but added 40 seats to be filled on a proportional basis. Elections
were held under this new system in May 2002 and the LCD won again. For
the first time, however, opposition political parties won significant numbers
of seats. Nine opposition parties hold all 40 of the proportional seats,
with the BNP having the largest share (21). The LCD has 79 of the 80 constituency
based seats. Although its elected members participate in the National Assembly,
the BNP has launched several legal challenges to the elections; none has