Managing a New Model for Elections: Lesotho, 1998-2011


After the 1998 parliamentary elections resulted in violent riots and a foreign military intervention, Lesotho’s leading political parties negotiated a new electoral model that increased the competitiveness of small parties. For the 2002 elections, the newly empowered Independent Electoral Commission worked to reform voter registration, educate voters about the new system, increase transparency, and build relationships of trust with political parties and the public. Careful, inclusive planning resulted in a peaceful election. Although the legislature did not change hands, opposition parties gained new representation and all parties accepted the fairness of the results. However, the next election in 2007 exposed unanticipated weaknesses in the electoral rules and led to renewed controversy. The electoral commission’s slow, acquiescent response to these challenges undermined its reputation for competence. The contrast between the commission’s performance in the 2002 and 2007 elections illuminates the difficulties faced in managing elections when the rules are untested, the stakes are high, and the parties are eager to exploit any advantage.

Gabriel Kuris drafted this case study based on initial work by Amy Mawson and on interviews conducted by Mawson in Maseru, Lesotho, in February 2010. Case published August 2011.
Associated Interview(s):  Khabele Matlosa, Limakatso Mokhothu


electoral model
electoral commission
Voter Registration
election security
information technology
Focus Area(s)
Critical Tasks
Election security
Voter registration
Core Challenge
Dispute resolution (compliance)
Country of Reform
Case Studies
Gabriel Kuris and Amy Mawson