Thomas Thabane (L) and SADC-negotiator Cyril Ramaphosa at the State House in Maseru in February. (Picture: Siyabulela Duda)

Lesotho's former prime minister Thomas Thabane is poised to form a coalition government after his party won snap elections at the weekend and defeated the governing alliance, according to official results released Tuesday.

Thabane's All Basotho Convention (ABC) won 48 parliamentary seats and will form a coalition with three other parties to obtain the required 61-seat majority.

The ABC's secretary general, Samonyane Ntsekele, said the party would join with the Alliance of Democrats (AD), the Basotho National Party (BNP) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) to form the country's third coalition government.

"We will officially announce the formation of this coalition government within the next two days," Ntsekele said.

Saturday's election was seen as a two-horse race between longtime rivals Thabane and Pakalitha Mosisili, the prime minister since 2015 – both veterans of Lesotho's political scene.

Defeated Democratic Congress party leader Mosisili (72) called the snap election when he lost a no-confidence vote in March after his seven-party coalition government broke up.

Mafa Sejanamane, a political analyst at the National University of Lesotho, said he had expected Mosisili to lose by a greater margin. "This is a heavy blow for Mosisili and his party, given that he had pushed for this vote. The people of Lesotho have made their sentiments clear," he said.

The unexpected deployment of the armed forces during the weekend vote prompted heavy criticism, with the electoral commission saying the presence of the military at polling stations had caused confusion.

Sejanamane said that the new coalition's priority would be to rein in the army. "The command of the national defence force is at the core of political instability in the country. This election was about security more than anything else," he said.

The vote was the third general election since 2012 in the country known as Africa's Switzerland, where years of political friction, including a failed coup, have hampered attempts to fight dire poverty.

The small kingdom was plunged into crisis in 2014 when soldiers attempted to oust Thabane. He fled to South Africa, where he spent two years, while the regional bloc SADC stepped in to end the crisis. Early elections took place in 2015.

Lesotho is a constitutional monarchy ruled by King Letsie III, who has no formal power, and it has a mixed parliamentary system. Eighty lawmakers are voted in by constituents, while another 40 seats are distributed proportionally.