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Democracy 101: tiny Lesotho holds peaceful election

After a number of setbacks, with disputed elections leading to civil war, the African kingdom of Lesotho holds an election that boots the incumbent. A coalition government is in the works.

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Lesotho voters wait outside a polling station in the Machache district of Lesotho, some 40 miles east of the capital Maseru, on May 26.

Jerome Delay/AP

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Lesotho – the tiny mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa, with the best (ok, only) skiing in Africa, and one of the world's highest HIV infection rates – is getting recognition for something else: carrying out a peaceful election with a likely transfer of power. 

After elections held this week, a majority of Basotho voters turned against the 14-year rule of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, expressing frustration with empty promises. With no party enjoying a convincing majority, five opposition parties this week cobbled together Lesotho’s first-ever coalition government and claim at least 61 seats of the 120-member parliament – with an ex-foreign minister, Tom Thabane, tabbed as the new premier.

With its straightforward process and absence of violence thus far, Lesotho gives a lesson in democracy that many other African countries -- such as Mali, Guinea-Bissau, Cote D'Ivoire, Kenya, and even nearby Madagascar, Zimbabwe, and South Africa could learn to emulate, political observers say.

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