It is often astounding to watch a brand-new political party beat other existing ones in major elections. And to say that this party just came into existence just about seven months ago is even more surprising. Political analysts in Africa and beyond have been stunned at the magic behind the exceptional victory of Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity party in Lesotho’s election held recently.
Formerly Basutoland, the constitutional monarch country and one of the three remaining monarchies in Africa asides from Morocco and Swaziland, was renamed the Kingdom of Lesotho upon independence from the UK in 1966. With Letsie III as its king since 1996, Lesotho has seen four military coups since its independence from Britain. While King Letsie III is Head of State, a Prime Minister is elected as Head of Government.
Lesotho is governed by a 33-member Senate and a 120-member National Assembly. At the just concluded National Assembly election (11th Parliament) held on October 7, a total of 65 political parties were listed by Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission-LIEC, to have contested leadership of the National Assembly. The ruling All-Basotho Convention-ABC which had veterans like the Former Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro, and former health minister Nkaku Kabi, party standing tall in the list.
The Democratic Congress-DC founded by Pakalitha Mosisili in 2012, Alliance for Democrats-AD founded in 2016 by Kabelo Gilbert Mafura and Monyane Moleleki were also prominent in the race, likewise, the Revolution for Prosperity-RFP, formed just six months ago by millionaire businessman Sam Matekane throwing its weight on other existing parties.
A few days after the election, news of victory for the RFP filled the media space. While the African news website had it “Millionaire businessman turns tables to win Lesotho polls”, Reuters had “Lesotho populist party wins most seats in election, falls short of majority”. Bloomberg African Edition tagged it “Newcomer Wins Most Seats in Lesotho’s Parliamentary Elections” and so did various other African news platforms give it their own tag, all geared towards expressing their shock at how a six-month-old political party led by a “political novice” could sweep such victory against highly experienced ministers, deputy prime minister, and former prime-ministers as well as age-long parties.
According to the independent electoral commission, the RFP garnered 56 out of the 120 seats in parliament to emerge victorious in the contest, though falling below the expected number of 61 seats needed for a majority. The main opposition, the Democratic Congress (DC) came a distant second with 29 seats while the current ruling party All Basotho Convention (ABC), which has governed the country of 2.14 million people since 2017 failed to win a seat in the parliament.
The only plight of RFP’s 56 seats is that it will have to find a coalition partner to form a government. The party’s leader Matekane announced afterwards that he would form a coalition with the Alliance of Democrats and the Movement for Economic Change to get the required 65 seats in the 120-seat National Assembly.
This surprising win has left many political pundits and party faithful in Africa, especially those who will go to the poll in the nearest future, nervous about the dangers of newcomers and ‘small’ political parties and candidates during elections.
A former Nigerian presidential aspirant of the All Progressives Congress-APC, Adamu Garba, could not hide his feeling after learning of RFP’s victory and immediately sent out a note of warning to his party not to underrate the Labour Party-LP (a seemingly ‘small’ political party) and its supporters as Nigerians head to the poll come February 2023.
Garba via his verified Twitter handle advised that Lesotho’s youths contributed hugely to the victory of the new party, and if APC did not devise tactical campaign techniques, it may count losses after the election.
With an overnight tsunami of supporters and millions of Nigerian youths holding road walks every now and then in support of the “small” Labour party and its presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, other political parties in the west African country ought to arise from their slumber lest they’ll be taken unawares just like their counterparts in Lesotho.
If a political party founded by a 64-years old ‘political novice’ and businessman Sam Matekane could win an election contested by political gurus just within a short period of its establishment, then there must have been something he did differently which others should strive to learn.