Lesotho parliament blocks ruling party bid to form new government

Thomas Thabane
Thomas Thabane

Lesotho's parliament on Friday temporarily blocked a move by the ruling party to quit a coalition government and form a new one in a bid to oust embattled premier Thomas Thabane.

The All Basotho Convention Party (ABC) had informed parliament through a letter of its decision to forge a new alliance with the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) party on Thursday.

A new government is likely to force 80-year old Thabane, who is under growing pressure to resign early over allegations he had a hand in the 2017 murder of his estranged wife, out of power.

National Assembly speaker Sephiri Motanyane said the ruling party had failed to specify if all the sides in the four-party coalition government had agreed to its dissolution.

"I have no problem with the formation of a new coalition but the biggest question is, what about the existing coalition?" Motanyane asked after reading the letter before parliament on Friday.

"It will be premature for parliament to discuss this matter in the absence of this clarity," Motanyane said, adding that parliament would only be allowed debate once the questions had been answered.

After Motanyane's address, ten of Lesotho's 12 parties told reporters they expected the speaker to make a decision on the matter by Monday.

"We have more than enough parliamentary seats to form a new government and we will amend our letter to indicate that the current coalition agreement has been terminated," said ABC chairman Sam Rapapa.

Lesotho legislation requires parties to command the support of 61 MPs in order to form government.

The ten parties already have 78 parliamentary seats between them.

Rapapa said the ABC had written another letter to Motanyane explaining that the current coalition had been terminated by the party's withdrawal.

DC deputy leader Motlalentoa Letsosa told AFP he expected Motanyane to read the amended letter on Monday and "make a final ruling on the formation of a new government" that day.

If parliament does not rule in their favour, Letsosa said they would still "go ahead and form a new government because we have (the) required parliamentary seats".

Thabane and his previous wife Lipolelo Thabane, 58, were going through a bitter divorce when she was gunned down outside her home in the capital Maseru, just two days before her husband's inauguration in June 2017.

Police have since found Thabane's mobile number in communications records from the crime scene -- prompting rivals within the ABC to demand his immediate resignation.

Thabane angered his rivals by repeating his intention to retire by the end of July this year on the grounds of "old age".

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