The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) has won the 2007 elections after it grabbed more than half of the 120 seats in Lesotho's parliament, warding off a strong challenge from a new opposition.
The LCD gained 61 of 80 constituency seats, with another 40 proportional representation seats available to smaller parties to make up the parliament of southern Africa's mountain kingdom, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Lesotho announced late on Tuesday night after a three-day counting.
But the party, led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, failed to win landslide victory as it did in the 1998 and 2002 elections due to the rise of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) which built strong support among urban and young voters.
The ABC, formed only four months ago by veteran politician Tom Thabane, managed to get 17 constituency seats to become a major opposition in the tiny country, with one going to the small Alliance of Congress Parties (ACP).
Elections in one constituency were delayed due to the death of a candidate in that area.
There are 120 parliamentary seats up for grabs, 80 of which are based on a "first past the post" system, with the remaining 40 seats handed out on a proportional representation system according to party lists, which is called party votes.
The National Independent Party got 21 parliamentary seats through party votes, and the Lesotho Workers Party won ten party votes.
A total of 14 parties and 93 independent candidates contested the poll, the fifth since the former British protectorate secured independence in 1966.
The LCD won 79 of 80 constituencies in the 2002 elections.
According to the constitution, the leader of the majority party in the parliament automatically becomes prime minister, which means Mosisili will be able to serve his third term.
With Lesotho's vast rural areas as its stronghold, the LCD won landslide victories in the 1998 and 2002 elections. But it faced a crisis in October last year after Thabane resigned as communications minister and crossed the floor with 17 other LCD members, bringing to 59 the number of seats the opposition holds in the Assembly.
Thabane's rocketing popularity apparently prompted Mosisili to asked King Letsie III to dissolve parliament in November last year for a snap election.
Entirely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho remains as one of the world's least developed countries, with a high unemployment rate and a grinding epidemic of HIV/AIDS.
Some 910,000 voters, roughly half of the country's population, registered to participate the poll with hope that the new government could help boost economy and tackle dire poverty.
The elections have been described by international observers as generally fair and transparent, despite slow pace of announcing the results at the national results center at Maseru's national convention center.
"The process in this election has been transparent, free of any degree of coercion or intimidation," Badru Kiggundu, leader of the African Union Observer/Monitoring Team, said on Tuesday, describing the election as successful.
Kiggundu said the presence of party agents at each polling station had minimized chances of any complaints during and after the polling process.
The observer also pointed out some shortcomings such as late delivery of polling materials to some polling stations, errors on voter's cards, and slow process of counting.