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New Election Structure for Lesotho

October 15, 1998

MASERU, Lesotho (AP) _ Lesotho’s government and opposition parties have agreed to set up a special body to prepare for new elections, a move aimed at ending months of political turmoil.

A South African mediator announced late Wednesday that the arrangement would lay the groundwork for free and fair balloting within 18 months.

South Africa is trying to restore a credible government to this small and impoverished kingdom, which is surrounded by South Africa and dependent on it for jobs and income.

Tensions here have been running high since the ruling party swept May elections. The opposition claimed the vote was rigged.

An army revolt and crippling labor strikes followed, leaving the country in chaos. South Africa and nearby Botswana a month ago dispatched about 1,000 troops to restore order.

South Africa expected to establish order quickly and leave. But resistance was high and scores were killed. South African troops remain in Lesotho.

South Africa’s Safety and Security Minister Sydney Mufamadi said the parties would examine proposals for the new election body, expected to be appointed by Oct. 31.

The Southern African Development Community, a 14-nation group, uncovered serious irregularities in the May elections.

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