JOHANNESBURG (AP) — The southern African nation of Lesotho on Saturday held an early election aimed at overcoming tension among political factions that has led to violence among security forces since last year.
Polling stations closed after peaceful voting in the mountain kingdom, one of the few countries on the continent to have experienced coalition rule. Analysts said there is a possibility that no party will win a majority, meaning the country could end up with another coalition government dependent on the delicate alliance of its partners.
Initial results will be released on Sunday, said Mahapela Lehohla, chairman of Lesotho's election commission. Military aircraft will help round up the results by flying them from remote areas to the central counting station in Maseru, Lesotho's capital, according to Lehohla.
Last year, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to avoid a vote of no-confidence after his coalition government splintered. He fled to South Africa, alleging he was the target of a coup attempt, and returned under the protection of South African forces.
The parliament has 120 seats and the country has 1.2 million registered voters.
Lesotho has little strategic significance, although it is a vital source of highlands water for parched South Africa, which has one of the continent's biggest economies and has been heavily involved in trying to stabilize its small neighbor.
South Africa's deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, frequently visited Lesotho to mediate among the factions before the election. Ramaphosa said he was confident that conditions for free and fair elections had been met.