A total of 23 political parties will take part in next month’s 9th National Assembly elections—up from 18 which contested the last poll on 26 May 2012.
According to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), 1 216 021 people are on the voters’ roll, while 1 106 candidates—775 men and 331—would battle-it-out in the 80 constituencies being contested on 28 February 2015. Twenty-four of the candidates would not be aligned to any party, the IEC has further announced.
And in a bid to help the electorate, the IEC has introduced a unique device called the Electronic Voter Validation Unit (EVV), which helps voters quickly verify if they are at the right polling station.
The EVV makes the verification through scanning the registration card, and if he or she is at the wrong place, it identifies and directs the lost voter to the correct polling station.
A three-member IEC delegation comprising Commissioner ’Mamosebi Pholo, Acting Director of Elections ’Mamatlere Matete and Spokesperson Tuoe Hantši, told a media conference on Tuesday that the EVV would ensure the voters are not inconvenienced by spending long hours in polling queues, only to be turned away because they would be at the wrong station.
Advocate Pholo indicated the EVV would be placed at every polling station on the day of the election, 28 February “for the voters to determine the right place to cast their vote even before they join the queue”.
She added: “This has come through experience from past elections where some voters, for some reason, would assume they were at the right place or could cast their vote at any polling station regardless of where they have been registered to do. After finding out that they are at the wrong station, the voters would end up not only being inconvenienced but failing to exercise their right to vote.”
The EVV, Advocate Pholo further emphasized, will only assist card-carrying voters “as the machine only uses codes on the cards to determine the electorate’s information.”
On the IEC’s preparedness to hold the election, whose date was only confirmed on 8 December 2014, Advocate Pholo said: “Since the election was announced, the IEC has been hard at work in many areas preparing for voting day. Nationwide training, recruitment and registration have been our major priorities. Our continuous voter-registration was intensified from 3 November (2014) and suspended on 16 December 2014.”
She further said the voters’ register was being published in all registration centres throughout the country, adding: “All political parties registered with the Commission have been provided with copies of the register. The plan is to print the final register during the first week of February.”
Concerning civic and voter education, Advocate Pholo said: “The IEC education teams are working hard across the country. Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) assisting the IEC with voter-education are also already in the field. The UNDP (United Nations Development Programme) is sponsoring some of the NGOs and we thank them for their valuable support. The training of candidates is in progress at district level, and chiefs have also been trained on the electoral process.”
The IEC delegation also announced a company based in Cape Town, South Africa, called Lithotech Export, was awarded the tender to supply ballot papers for the poll.
Mrs Matete explained: “A delegation led by Commissioner Pholo and composed of officials and representatives of the logistics committee and police, visited the printing plant in Cape Town last week. We found the plant to be first-rate.”
Political parties had also submitted their Proportional Representation (PR) lists between 19 and 21 January as prescribed on the election timetable, Advocate Pholo added.
“Any objections to lists began yesterday, 26 January and the aggrieved parties have until 1 February to register their complaints. Decisions related to those objections will be made from 2-3 February, and publication of the final party lists will be on 11 February. The certificates of the candidates will be five days later on 16 February,” announced Mrs Matete.
For accreditation of national and international observers, the delegation said invitation letters were issued and confirmations were received “from most of invited organisations.”
The accreditation of observers, the IEC delegates said, would take place between 12 and 24 February at Maseru Sun Hotel.
Meanwhile, advance voting for those who are going to be on duty on 28 February, takes place on 21 February, the IEC team further noted.
The delegation further explained the elections’ Monitoring Committee, consisting of one member from each party registered with the IEC, had been established prior to the election period, which began on 8 December 2014.
“The Committee was established to monitor various tasks performed during the registration, nomination and polling phases,” said Mrs Matete.