MASERU, 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.

Thabane told journalists after voting that whoever rejects the national elections’ outcomes will be going against the objectives of the Southern African Development Community.

Thabane insisted that he would accept any outcome because the Independent Electoral Commission had played its role and set up credible processes.

City Press sources described Thabane’s campaign as the most well-funded among the contenders with a fleet of branded vehicles used to ferry the leader and his campaign team.

It managed to buy advertising space on big billboards along Maseru’s main Kingsway Road, and outshone opponents with branded events, T-shirt giveaways and campaign material including leaflets and manifestos.

The only other party that came close to matching Thabane is the newly formed Movement for Economic Change, led by the youngest of the four players in the race, Selibe Mochoboroane (39).

Experts have predicted that another fractious coalition government unlikely to tackle the mountain kingdom’s dire levels of HIV/Aids and unemployment would result from Saturday’s snap election.

Thabane told the media that he was open to a coalition, saying it was the way to go because anyone outside will burn that house down.

He vowed that he wanted to make Lesotho a beacon of hope before he retires.

Thabane’s All Basotho Congress party and the Alliance Democrats of Monyane Moleleki, a former police minister, have been in talks to form a possible government.

Mosisili’s Democratic Congress party could join forces with the Lesotho Congress of Democracy and the Popular Front for Democracy.