By Marafaele Mohloboli
Lesotho's Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili was preparing on Wednesday to call a snap election after losing a confidence vote in parliament, a cabinet minister said.
A slew of defections by ruling-coalition lawmakers to the opposition has badly weakened support for Mosisili in parliament two years after he came to power after an inconclusive vote.
"We will be going to the polls" said Minister of Defense Ts'eliso Mokhosi, referring to the cabinet.
Mosisili's political adviser Fako Likoti had said the prime minister would call elections, although Mosisili himself did not make a public comment after the vote.
Lesotho, a small landlocked country of 2 million people surrounded by South Africa, has been hit by several coups since independence from Britain in 1966.
Analysts said it appears set for a period of political instability. It's last two elections have not produced a winner with a clear majority.
"The period of uncertainty is set to continue," said independent political analyst Ts'oeu Petlane. "Even the next election is likely to give an undecided outcome, which could lead to another shaky coalition."
Lesotho's law says elections must be held within three months of parliament being dissolved.
After a debate on the motion of no confidence, the 120-member assembly voted by acclamation to depose Mosisili.
Two years ago, Mosisili's Democratic Congress (DC) ousted former prime minister Thomas Theban's All Lesotho Congress (ABN) by uniting with smaller parties.
This time around, Theban's ABN led a coalition of opposition parties including the Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Lesotho National Party (BNP) in a bid to remove Mosisili.
Lesotho's economy relies heavily on textile revenues, regional customs receipts and water piped to South Africa, making it of strategic importance to Pretoria, which has acted as a mediator during previous bouts of political turmoil.
(Additional reporting and writing by James Macharia Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)