MASERU — The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) yesterday engaged the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) in an ambitious programme to boost voter education.
The two institutions said they had agreed to join forces over the next five months to fight voter apathy that has seen the number of voters at polls dwindle in recent elections.
The partnership was sealed yesterday at the IEC boardroom in Maseru.
Under the terms of the agreement the LCN will spearhead the voter education campaign in the run-up to local government elections which are due in early September.
The LCN is an umbrella body for civic groups and is seen as an effective channel that can direct a vigorous voter education campaign.
The two institutions said they will fight to reverse voter apathy, enhance democracy and boost voter registration.
Speaking at the signing ceremony yesterday IEC director of elections, Mphasa Mokhochane, said the agreement provided the electoral body with an opportunity to focus on preparing for elections while leaving voter education to the LCN.
According to Mokhochane, the LCN was better placed to teach the public about reforms brought to local government elections such as the introduction of “urban and municipal councils”.
“In the 2005 local government elections, we had only community councils. The public will now be taught about the changes and why they have been made,” Mokhochane said.
“The LCN will also better explain issues such as why local government elections were postponed from 2010 to 2011 as well as the importance of casting one’s vote.”
He added that in the 2005 elections women contested in droves and he hoped that this election “will see more women participating”.
LCN director ‘Mabulara Tšoene said the civic organisation had embraced the challenge because “it is what we do all the time”.
“It is within our scope of work to teach the public about the importance of elections. We’ve worked with the IEC before, in the 2002 elections and the 2010 by-elections,” Tšoene said.
“The challenge includes the limited time we have to pass on the education to people as well as sensitising them about changes that have been made since the last elections.”
We are banking on member organisations to help us reach our goals, Tšoene said.
In a joint statement released at the ceremony, the two organisations said they will seek to utilise their skills to “advance voter education”.
“The collaboration will also standardise electoral and voter education, offset irregularities, contradictory electoral education messages by regulating content delivered to people,” the statement said.
Through the collaboration, the statement says, there will be established a channel of engagement between civil society organisations and IEC and the mobilisation of resources to advance electoral education in Lesotho.
To make the civic education effective, there will be developed an electoral education manual to be used by stakeholders, ensure that electoral education activities are undertaken by competent personnel and that all electoral material is approved by both parties, according to the statement.
“Parties shall also ensure that education activities are spread through the country and even in remote areas indiscriminately,” the statement says.
It is also the two parties’ responsibility to ensure that all sectors of society, particularly the disabled, youth and the elderly are catered for, it adds.
Although the LCN will carry the load of the work, the statement says, the civic group is at liberty to indicate to the IEC specific roles that the electoral commission has to perform.
While committed to a similar cause, the statement reads, the two institutions shall retain their independence as is “dictated by their founding constitutions”.
IEC is expected to among others avail for LCN electoral education activities and personnel to enhance the value and credibility of activities, the statement reads.
The commission will also be expected to provide funds for electoral education as well as support and reference for LCN if it seeks funds for electoral education “from other sources”.
The LCN will on the other hand design a code of ethics and good governance and financial management systems for civic societies participating in the electoral education.
“LCN will establish standards for the purposes of accountability, credibility and effective implementation and sub-committees to handle disciplinary matters.
“The LCN will also devise an approach whereby organisations with relevant capacity shall cater for geographic areas which have need but are not served by any organisation.”