AP

Vote counting starts in Lesotho’s polls in southern Africa

Oct 6, 2022, 1:39 PM | Updated: Oct 7, 2022, 10:30 am

An elderly man leaves a polling station after casting his vote in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east o...

An elderly man leaves a polling station after casting his vote in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

(AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)


              An elderly man leaves a polling station after casting his vote in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A man covered with a blanket leaves the voting station after casting his vote at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A woman covered with a blanket casts her vote at a poling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A woman walks out of a polling station after casting her vote in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in That-Tseka District, 82km away from Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A woman carrying a child stands outside a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              An elderly man leaves a polling station after casting his vote in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A man covered with a blanket leaves the voting station after casting his vote at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A woman covered with a blanket casts her vote at a poling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A woman walks out of a polling station after casting her vote in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in That-Tseka District, 82km away from Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A woman carrying a child stands outside a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Thaba-Tseka District, 82km east of Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              An elderly woman cast her vote as party agents observe at a polling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              People line up to cast their votes at a polling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              An elderly man arrives at a poling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A man wearing a blanket waits as an official checks his name on the electoral register at a poling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A man wearing a blanket casts his vote at a poling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A man casts his vote at a poling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A man wearing a blanket waits as an official checks his name on the electoral register at a poling station in Maseru, Lesotho, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across the picturesque mountain kingdom of Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)
            
              A man wearing a blanket cast his vote at a poling station in Maseru, South Africa, Friday, Oct. 7, 2022. Voters across Lesotho are heading to the polls Friday to elect a leader to find solutions to high unemployment and crime. (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

MASERU, Lesotho (AP) — Vote counting has begun in southern Africa’s tiny mountain kingdom of Lesotho following a day when thousands of citizens in urban and rural areas voted to elect the country’s 120 legislators.

Soon after the polls closed, electoral officials were seen verifying voters’ rolls at various polling stations.

The Independent Electoral Commission will announce the official results, which some expect will come by Tuesday.

No major disruptive incidents in the voting have been reported, although some accounts from voters and polling officials indicated that some people whose names were not on the voters’ roll were turned away.

At one station in Thaba Tseka district in the rural part of the country, the expected turnout was almost half of the number of registered voters expected.

The elections are a tight race between the top three parties out of a field of more than 60 registered political parties.

Outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu of the Democratic Congress party is running against his current coalition partner Nkaku Kabi of the All Basotho Convention and businessman-turned-politician Sam Matekane of the Revolution for Prosperity.

Friday was a public holiday to encourage voting by the country’s 2.1 million people. Lesotho is entirely surrounded by South Africa.

Lesotho’s King Letsie III presides over a constitutional monarchy but has virtually no political power. Whichever party wins enough representatives in the National Assembly to form a government will select the new prime minister. With so many parties contesting the election, a coalition is very likely, say experts.

At a polling station in Thetsane, an industrial area of the capital Maseru, a mix of elderly, women and young people waited in line as voting got off to a slow start after polls opened at 7 a.m.

Many voters told The Associated Press that they hoped the election of new leaders would bring change as the country is facing high levels of unemployment, increasing crime and political instability.

Tseliso Seutlwadi, 32, who is unemployed was among the first to vote.

“We need a change and it will only be brought by us through our votes. Basically unemployment is too high in this country. We have university degrees but we know that only 10% of people get hired. What happens to the rest?” asked Seutlwadi.

He said that many people had lost jobs at the factories during the COVID-19 pandemic and some had turned to crime and prostitution to make a living.

“As young people we want to have an impact on the future of this country. We can see factories closing down, rape against women is on the rise, we have to stand up as young people and influence what happens in this country,” said 37-year-old Ntsoaki Lenea.

The garment-making industry is Lesotho’s largest employer after the government and had more than 45,500 textile workers at the beginning of 2020, but about 25% of those jobs were lost during the pandemic, according to official statistics.

About 320,000 people in Lesotho are currently experiencing a severe food “crisis” and are in urgent need of aid “to save lives, reduce food gaps, protect and restore livelihoods and prevent acute malnutrition,” according to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification.

Election observers from the European Union, the Commonwealth, the African Union and the Southern African Development Community are in Lesotho to assess the electoral process.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

Image: A Boeing 737 Max 7 is displayed during a debut for employees and media of the new jet in Ren...

Associated Press

Boeing says it’s in talks to buy Spirit AeroSystems, key supplier on troubled 737 Max

Boeing said Friday that it is in preliminary talks to buy Spirit AeroSystems, which builds fuselages for Boeing 737 Max jetliners.

3 hours ago

Image: McKenna Shuster works on a linocut art print which she does as a hobby in her home on the la...

Mike Stobbs, The Associated Press

U.S. health officials drop 5-day isolation time for COVID-19

Americans who test positive for COVID-19 no longer need to stay in isolation for five days, U.S. health officials announced Friday.

9 hours ago

Image: Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks at a Get Out The Vote...

Associated Press

Supreme Court agrees to decide if Trump can be prosecuted for election interference

The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the former president can be prosecuted on charges he interfered with the 2020 election.

2 days ago

mcconnell...

Michael Tackett, The Associated Press

McConnell will step down as the Senate Republican leader in November

McConnell said he plans to serve out his Senate term, which ends in January 2027, “albeit from a different seat in the chamber.”

2 days ago

Image: This combo image shows President Joe Biden, left, on Jan. 5, 2024, and Republican presidenti...

Associated Press

Trump, Biden won Michigan: but ‘uncommitted’ votes stick out

Early results from Michigan highlighted some of the two candidates' biggest political vulnerabilities ahead of the November general election.

3 days ago

An entrance to a Macy's store in the mall. (File photo: Ted Shaffrey, AP)...

Associated Press

Macy’s to close 150 stores as sales slip, pivot to luxury with Bloomingdale’s locations

Macy’s will close 150 unproductive namesake stores over the next three years including 50 by year-end, the department store operator said Tuesday.

3 days ago

Vote counting starts in Lesotho’s polls in southern Africa