Who is Tom Thabane? And what next for Lesotho?

The last transfer of power in Lesotho to Pakalitha Mosisili in 1998 ended in riots and violence by opposition supporters who did not believe that Mosisili’s party had truly won a crushing victory in the 1997 election — although the vote largely reflected the will of the people, the crisis ended only with international intervention from South Africa.

So with word that Mosisili has given up hope to form a coalition headed by his breakaway Democratic Congress party, the path seems clear for an orderly — and peaceful — transfer of power from Mosisili to Tom Thabane, former foreign minister and one-time protegé of Mosisili, later this week.

In the parliamentary election on May 26, Democratic Congress — a party formed only in February 2012 as a splinter from Mosisili’s longstanding Lesotho Congress for Democracy party — won 48 seats.  The Lesotho Congress for Democracy, under Mothetjoa Metsing, won just 26 seats, as somewhat of an evolved protest group, while Thabane’s All Basotho Convention won 30 seats.

Together with the Basotho National Party, the LCD and the ABC are expected to form a coalition under Thabane.

The peaceful transfer of power in the small mountainous country (it’s surrounded entirely by the national of South Africa) comes just after a remarkably similar transfer in Senegal earlier this year.  As in Senegal, the transfer from Mosisili to Thabane is expected to be marked more by continuity than by rupture.

Continue reading Who is Tom Thabane? And what next for Lesotho?

Warning signs for Hollande in French parliamentary campaign

The campaign for French parliamentary elections kicked off just last Monday, for what most observers believe is a formality in installing the newly inaugurated President François Hollande’s Parti socialiste as the majority of the Assemblée nationale.

French voters go to the polls this Sunday for the first of two rounds — in each parliamentary district, if no candidate wins over 50% (with at least 25% support of all registered voters in the district), each candidate that commands at least 12.5% support of all registered voters (or the top two candidates, alternatively) in the first round will advance to the second round on May 17.

In 2002, parliamentary and presidential elections were fixed so that the former follows nearly a month after the latter.  As in 2002 and 2007, it is expected that the winner of the presidential race in May will thereupon see his party win the parliamentary elections in June.

The rationale is to avoid cohabitation — the divided government that sees one party control the presidency and another party control the government, which has occurred only three times in the history of the Fifth Republic (most recently from 1997 to 2002, when Parti socialiste prime minister Lionel Jospin led the government under center-right President Jacques Chirac).  More than in most countries, the French electorate seem a bit more allergic to divided government, which should give Hollande some relief in advance of Sunday’s vote.

But there are complications this time around, which may result in a somewhat murkier result.

Wait a minute, you might say: Deposed president Nicolas Sarkozy is off licking his wounds in Morocco, leaving a decapitated center-right split between followers of outgoing prime minister François Fillon and Jean-François Copé, head of the Union pour un mouvement populaire (which, unlike the Parti socialiste, is not a decades-long party, but only the latest brand of a series of shifting vehicles of France’s center-right) — Fillon and Copé last week were already sniping at one another.

A surging Front national on the far right (and increasingly and uncomfortably encroached on the center-right and parts of the populist left as well), under Marine Le Pen, garnered nearly one out of every five votes in the first round of the presidential election and is hoping to do just as well in the legislative election.

Meanwhile, Hollande’s prime minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, seen as a prudent and moderate choice to lead France’s new government, has a 65% approval rating (higher than Hollande’s own 61% approval!), and Ayrault is already moving to reverse part of Sarkozy’s signature reform — raising the retirement age from 60 to 62 — by allowing a small subset of longtime workers to retire at 60.

How, under these conditions, could the PS possibly lose? Continue reading Warning signs for Hollande in French parliamentary campaign

First Past the Post: June 6

The economics blogosphere — from all sides of the debate — is noting with some alarm Martin Wolf’s latest column in the Financial Times:

Before now, I had never really understood how the 1930s could happen. Now I do. All one needs are fragile economies, a rigid monetary regime, intense debate over what must be done, widespread belief that suffering is good, myopic politicians, an inability to co-operate and failure to stay ahead of events.

Former Senegalese president Abdoulaye Wade, who was defeated by Macky Sall in March 2012, is now under suspicion of embezzlement of public assets upon leaving office.

More Tahrir Square protests demanding Ahmed Shafiq’s disuqalification from June 16’s Egyptian presidential runoff.

Recently defeated Serbian president Boris Tadić says his party may be close to forming a parliamentary majority with the Progressives.

Germany’s Pirate Party has growing pains.

More evidence that Kim Han-gil is emerging as the Democratic United Party’s presidential candidate for December’s election.