Thomas Thabane Lesotho former PM vies for power after fleeing in 2014

The attempted coup was just one chapter of the recurrent political instability that has plagued Lesotho.

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Lesotho former premier Tom Thabane is fighting to regain power in Saturday's parliamentary elections play

Lesotho former premier Tom Thabane is fighting to regain power in Saturday's parliamentary elections

(AFP)
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Lesotho former prime minister Thomas Thabane, who is fighting to regain power in Saturday's elections, will never forget fleeing his official residence in 2014 as rogue soldiers apparently sought to kill him.

The attempted coup was just one chapter of the recurrent political instability that has plagued Lesotho, a mountain kingdom surrounded by South Africa.

"It was the most undignified thing that happened to me, to wear (just) my pants... and go through the fence with my wife, running away from the state house," Thabane told AFP ahead of the vote.

The attempted coup was followed by elections in 2015, when Thabane was ousted from power by a coalition government that collapsed earlier this year.

He fled to safety in South Africa, and only returned to compete in the latest election, which is likely to deliver another fragile coalition government.

"No army can be above the political authority of those who are elected by the majority of the people, and that is the problem that made me spend a whole year and a half in exile," Thabane said.

The leader of the All Basotho Congress (ABC), which may emerge in a coalition government with the newly formed Alliance of Democrats (AD), said he was still wary of the army's role in politics.

Free and fair?

"We are going to win this election, if it is free and fair," said Thabane, speaking at his modest, heavily-guarded home in the capital Maseru.

"(But) the army people have their own interests, and at the moment I am not their favourite."

Thabane said he did not seek revenge against the alleged coup plotters, but added that he hoped the army would eventually be merged into the police.

"That is my vision for Lesotho," he said.

"We shouldn't have had an army in the first place... which country could we successfully attack?" he asked.

The 2014 attempted coup was allegedly led by army chief Tlali Kamoli, who was removed from the post last year.

Thabane said the election, which follows Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili losing a vote of no confidence, put the country at a "serious crossroads" after recent coalition governments have collapsed within a few years.

Poverty, lack of jobs and access to health services were pressing issues that he said needed urgent attention from a stable government.

The HIV-AIDS prevalence rate among adults is 22.7 percent, according to the UN, and many of Lesotho's people seek work in South Africa.

The new government will replace a seven-party coalition led by Mosisili which was dissolved in March.

It will be in power for only three years until the next general elections.

If they can patch together a ruling coalition, Thabane and Monyane Moleleki of the AD party, have agreed to share the prime minister role, with the two taking 18 months each.

"In my heart that deal stands," Thabane said.

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