People in Lesotho voted in a national election on Saturday just two years after the previous one as the Southern African kingdom struggles with political instability.
The nation of 2 million people has been hit by several coups since independence from Britain in 1966 and army troops were on duty until the polls closed at 1500 GMT on Saturday.
Election officials expect results to start trickling in early on Sunday.
King Letsie III has been head of state of the landlocked country, which is surrounded by South Africa, since independence from Britain in 1996.
But political leadership has been volatile in recent years with the last two elections failing to produce a winner with a clear majority.
Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, who had been in power since 2015, lost a confidence vote in parliament in March after several defections by ruling coalition lawmakers to the opposition eroded his support.
Democratic Congress party leader Mosisili’s main rival is All Basotho Convention head Thomas Thabane, who governed from 2012 until 2015. Thabane cast his ballot mid-morning at the Makhoakhoeng polling station in the capital Maseru.
“I would like to see a changed Lesotho,” said Fanie Manyathela, speaking at the Makhoakhoeng polling station. “For way too long we have seen a lot of instability and insecurity causing other people to flee the country.”
Lesotho, with very little in terms of industry or commercial agriculture, relies heavily on remittances from relatives working on the farms and in the mines of neighboring South Africa.
“We are growing and we need people that will listen to us when we speak to them,” Peter Jonas told Reuters at the polling station.
Lesotho, source of some of South Africa’s largest rivers and home to a multi-phase dam project to with a long-term water supply, is of strategic importance to its much larger and more powerful neighbor.
(Reporting by Marafaele Mohloboli and Dinky Mkhize, Writing by TJ Strydom, editing by Angus MacSwan)