On Sunday elections were held in Lesotho. The small southern African “kingdom in the sky” was the continent’s first country to use a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system, in 2002. Sunday’s election was Lesotho’s second under MMP, and as I am not aware of any other African countries having opted for MMP (as opposed to MMM/parallel, which is used by several countries*), it must have been only the second African MMP election.
As of today, counting was still continuing. The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) was well ahead, but facing “an unexpected challenge from a new party,” the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Reuters reported.
JÃ¸rgen Eklit, writing for the ACE project, has an excellent short overview of the 2002 election and the political compromises that went into the electoral system. Eklit notes that there was violence after the 1998 election, at which time Lesotho was still under a pure FPTP system. In 1998 the LCD had won 79 of the then 80 seats on about 60% of the vote. Haggling over important details of a mixed-member system postponed the first post-conflict election. When the MMP system was used in 2002, the LCD again won nearly all (77 of 80) single-seat districts, but the compensatory nature of the list tier meant that the forty new PR-tier seats all went to various opposition parties, which had combined for 45% of the votes. Thus the result, with the LCD holding 65% of the seats, was not particularly proportional, but only because the PR tier would need to have been about as large as the nominal (SSD) tier to offset such a lopsided result in the SSDs. (By contrast, had the system in 2002 been MMM/parallel, the LCD would have had about 101 of the 120 seats, or 84%.**)
I saw a BBC TV report yesterday that obliged the electoral-system fans in its audience with close-ups of the ballots. It was clear that there are physically separate ballot papers for the nominal (SSD) and list (PR) tiers, and separate ballot boxes. One ballot paper was a different color than the other, and the list ballot had party names and symbols, while the nominal ballot had candidate names as well as party names and symbols.
In the current election, the LCD has won at least 30 of the 80 single-seat districts and the ABC at least 15. If the LCD’s ratio of SSD seats won holds as more come in (and, given that many of the still outstanding counts are probably in rural areas, as implied on the BBC report, it is probably more likely to increase), most or all of the PR seats will again go to the opposition. But the better performance of the opposition this time in the SSDs guarantees that the compensatory nature of the MMP system will lead to a more proportional result this time than in 2002.
UPDATE: As I suggested above, the LDC lead in seats won indeed expanded as more rural results came in. It appears that the ruling party has won 61 of the 80 single-seat districts. That happens to be precisely a majority of the full parliament. Thus unless the LDC’s percentage of the party-list votes (which are not available yet on the electoral commission website) is more than about 51%, the opposition parties will again win all of the party-list seats. And, even if the LDC’s percentage of the party-list votes is under 50%, the LDC will have a majority of seats. With either a larger list tier (and parliament) or a provision to compensate for “overhangs” (SSDs won in excess of proportional share), the LDC might have fallen short of a majority. In any event, the parliament will be much more closely divided this time. We can also expect some challenges over any district races that were close.
See also the discussion at The Head Heeb.
* Including Senegal, which has elections for president
and parliament on 25 February. (Parliamentary elections have been postponed till 3 June.)
** Its 79 SSDs, plus 55% of the 40 PR-list seats.