Parliamentary Chamber: National Assembly


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  National Assembly

Dates of elections / renewal (from/to):

  27 March 1993

Purpose of elections:

  Elections were held for all seats in the new National Assembly as part of plans to return to civilian rule. The previous, appointed National Assembly had been dissolved in 1986 following a military coup d’Etat.

Background and outcome of elections:

  The 1993 general elections were the first free ones to be held in 23 years. The last parliamentary elections had been held in 1970 but had been annulled by the then Prime Minister Leabua Jonathan when from early results it became apparent that the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) was going to beat his ruling Basuto National Party (BNP). He dissolved Parliament and in 1973 appointed interim National Assembly.

In January 1986, Prime Minister Jonathan was overthrown in a bloodless coup by Major-General Lekhanya, who was himself overthrown by Major-General Elias Ramaema in April 1991. The latter announced general elections for 1992, as earlier planned, and lifted the ban on political party activity which had been in force since the 1986 military coup. By July 1991, the National Constituent Assembly had finished drafting a new Constitution for the country.

The elections were postponed on several occasions because of technical difficulties (flaws in the voters’ lists and the need to redraw some constituency boundaries). They finally took place once the date had been set on January 14, 1993, with 241 candidates vying for the 65 seats at stake. The main contenders were the BNP and the BCP. The BCP campaigned on a platform to restore democracy and seek reconciliation among all parties. It shifted from its socialist policy to a policy that favoured a mixed economy. The BNP, led by Mr. E. Sekhonyana, was apparently supported by the military junta in power and also had much backing form the tribal chiefs. A smaller party, the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), also fielded candidates.

Some 130 observers from 29 countries under United Nations auspices monitored the polling, which was marked by high participation (including thousands of migrant workers – particularly miners – who crossed over from South Africa). In some constituencies, voters had to ride on horseback or be ferried by UN helicopters to reach their polling stations.

The results gave a landslide victory to the BCP, which won all the seats. In certain constituencies it won five times more votes than its main rival, the BNP. Major losers included the former military leader, Major-General Lekhanya.

The BNP rejected this outcome, denouncing fraud and irregularities. However, the general feeling among the observer community was that the elections had been both free and fair despite what termed serious shortcomings in the distribution of election materials. As a consequence of the BCP victory, the political power of the tribal chiefs was expected to vane.

On 2 April, BCP leader Ntsu Mokhehle was sworn in as the new Prime Minister, a position he had been seeking for 23 years. Meanwhile, the BNP had filed a motion in court to annul the results of the elections. The entry into office of Ntsu Mokhehle marked the end of seven years of military rule and heralded an era of democracy in Lesotho. The new Cabinet took oath on 8 April.

Round no 1 (27 March 1993): Elections results  
Number of registered electors 736,930
Voters 532,678 (72.28%)

Round no 1: Distribution of votes  
Political Group Candidates Votes %
Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) 65 398,355 74.78
Basuto National Party (BNP) 65 120,686 22.65
Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) 51 7,650 1.43
Others 60 5,987 1.12

Round no 1: Distribution of seats  
Political Group Total
Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) 65
Basuto National Party (BNP) 0
Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) 0
Others 0

Distribution of seats according to sex:  
Men: 62
Women: 3

Distribution of seats according to profession:

Farmers 32
Businessmen 9
Teachers 8
Traders 2
Others 14

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Copyright 1993 Inter-Parliamentary Union