Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy. The present constitution came into force in 1993, shortly after the return to multiparty democracy, and was amended in 2001 to introduce an element of proportional representation. The monarch is head of state, the succession being ratified by the College of Chiefs. The Prime Minister is head of government and appoints a cabinet.
The legislature has two chambers: the National Assembly which is elected for a five-year term, with 80 seats elected on a first-past- the-post basis, and 40 by means of proportional representation; and the non-elected Senate with 33 members, comprising 11 nominated by the monarch on the advice of the Prime Minister and the 22 principal chiefs of Lesotho.
In the first elections following the introduction of an element of proportional representation, in May 2002, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) took 77 seats and 54.9 per cent of the votes, the Basotho National Party (BNP) 21 and 22.4 per cent, and eight other parties each gained seats. Bethuel Pakalitha Mosisili was again sworn in as Prime Minister. The Commonwealth observer group present for the elections said that the conditions existed for a free expression of the will of the voters.
In October 2006, Tom Thabane resigned as a minister in the LCD government to form a new political party, the All Basotho Convention (ABC). Sixteen LCD MPs and one independent defected with him, making the ABC the third largest party in the National Assembly with 18 members.
In the February 2007 general election, which was observed by a Commonwealth expert team, Mosisili and the ruling LCD were returned to power, winning 62 seats. The National Independent Party took 21 seats and ABC 17, mainly in urban areas.
After the 2007 elections a political impasse arose following a dispute on the allocation of seats in Parliament. Subsequent mediation efforts at resolving the dispute were led by a Southern African Development Community (SADC) Special Envoy, Sir Ketumile Masire, and the Christian Council of Lesotho.
In February 2012 Mosisili and 44 other members left the ruling LCD to form a new party, the Democratic Congress (DC).
A general election in May 2012, with Commonwealth observers present, resulted in a peaceful transfer of power when Pakalitha Mosisili was succeeded by ABC leader Tom Thabane, the first change of PM since 1998. Mosisili’s DC won 48 seats, the ABC 30, the LCD 26 and the BNP 5. Though the DC had the most seats it did not have a working majority; the three opposition parties agreed to form a coalition government; Parliament elected Thabane Prime Minister; and he was sworn in on 9 June 2012.
In June 2014, after divisions appeared in the ruling coalition and a motion of no confidence had been called against Prime Minister Thabane, he prorogued Parliament. On 30 August 2014 Thabane fled to South Africa, alleging that the army had attempted to take power and saying that he feared for his life. The South African Government provided a security escort so that Thabane was able to return to Lesotho in early September 2014. SADC initiated a process of mediation between the political stakeholders, which was facilitated by South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa. This resulted in the signing of the Maseru Facilitation Declaration on 2 October 2014 which committed all political parties to the reconvening of Parliament on 17 October 2014; to limiting the business of the current Parliament to discussion of the budget and all matters related to the holding of elections; and to the holding of elections in February 2015, on a date to be set by King Letsie III.
In National Assembly elections that were held on 28 February 2015, which Commonwealth election observers described as peaceful and well conducted, Pakalitha Mosisili’s DC won 47 seats, Thabane’s ABC 46, the LCD 12 and the BNP seven. Neither DC nor ABC won a majority of the 120 seats in Parliament and, after a short period of negotiations with the smaller parties, on 4 March 2015 the DC announced that it would form a coalition government with the LCD and five other smaller parties.