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Lesotho Ruling Party Poised for Landslide Victory in Parliamentary Vote

The ruling party in the southern African nation of Lesotho is poised to return to power after winning a landslide victory in Saturday's parliamentary elections. Election officials say results so far show the ruling party has won at least 53 seats while a new opposition party has won at least 18 seats. Correspondent Scott Bobb reports from our Southern Africa bureau in Johannesburg.

Election officials in Lesotho say the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili is set to win a majority of the seats in the new parliament.

But they add that a four-month old opposition party, the All Basotho Congress, has made a strong showing and will lead the opposition.

Party spokesman Motumi Ralejoe complained of irregularities. He said the party told election officials the voter registration list contained many errors but these were never addressed.

He said, "Even the final voting list had similar problems, names missing, deceased people still appearing in the list and they did not do anything with the census that took place this year."

He added that results tabulated at some polling stations differed from the official results announced by the Electoral Commission in the capital.

The new party's leader, former Communications Minister Tom Thabane, is to issue a statement Sunday on the objections.

The chairman of the Independent Electoral Commission, Leshele Thoahlane acknowledged there were some problems but did not feel these were enough to affect the outcome.

"We feel that the voters list is credible," he said. "There are people here and there who might not have their pictures on the voters list but that would not prevent anybody from voting."

Thoahlane said he had not heard any complaint about discrepancies in the announced results.

The prime minister called the early elections after Thabane and 17 other parliamentarians defected to form the new party.

Their party campaigned on the need for change and pledged to fight poverty and AIDS.

The ruling party said it had brought peace and stability after violent elections in 1998 and promised to improve the economy.

The lively campaign revitalized political debate and as a result organizers were puzzled that less than one half of the registered voters went to the polls.

Eighty of the 120 seats in the assembly were decided by direct vote. Forty others are to be decided by a proportional system designed to give small parties a voice in the legislature.