…as EU and Commonwealth deploy monitoring missions
Tokelo Khausela/Nthabiseng Libate
United States (US) ambassador to Lesotho, Maria Brewer, has called for “free, fair and transparent elections”.
Addressing 50 guests representing various political parties, civil society organisations, diplomatic and development partners at her Maseru residence over the weekend, Ms Brewer said all stakeholders had critical roles to play in ensuring the integrity of the upcoming elections.
“For these elections to truly be effective, they must be free, fair, and transparent. For elections to be free, all those eligible to vote must be able to do so, free from fear or intimidation.
“For elections to be fair, all registered political parties must have a right to take part in the elections, campaign for voter support and hold meetings and rallies.
“For elections to be transparent, all stakeholders – political parties, election observers, and voters alike – must be able to verify that the elections were conducted according to official procedures,” Ms Brewer said.
She called on elections candidates to desist from fanning violence through inflammatory speeches. She further called on the media to give fair and balanced reportage and expose corruption whenever it happened.
“I have spoken to many of you in private about these matters, but it is important I say it in public, for all to hear.
“To those seeking (political) office, you have an obligation to refrain from inflammatory speech and from supporting acts of intimidation. Whenever such speech or acts of violence are committed by your supporters or in your name, you must speak out against it. Violence has no place in a democratic election.
“To the media, you play an important role, helping to expose corruption and providing accurate, balanced, and timely information that is of interest and relevance to the public. Please keep reporting and ensure that your reporting is open and honest.
“To the representatives of civil society, you play a critical role by educating the people of Lesotho about their rights and obligations as democratic citizens, ensuring that the people can advocate for their interests, and encouraging them to actively engage in the electoral process. Do not underestimate the key role your efforts play in building and strengthening democracy.
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“To my fellow diplomats: we, too, have an important part to play. We must denounce abuses when we see them, and publicly stand with those working to ensure the integrity of Lesotho’s electoral process. Only when all stakeholders take their responsibilities seriously can there be public trust in the process with credible results.
“Some may question why the United States concerns ourselves with other countries’ elections. The response is simple: we care about other countries’ democratic institutions because the people care about those institutions. The United States shares these values, recognising that – when done well – elections are one of the primary ways the people express their collective will. We are committed to ensuring their will is heard,” Ms Brewer said.
THE Commonwealth will next week deploy a six-member team to observe Lesotho’s general elections on 7 October 2022.
In a recent statement, the secretariat of the 56-nation association comprising mostly formerly British colonies including Lesotho, said the observer team would jet into the country on 30 September.
The statement further said the observer team would be headed by former Seychelles president, Danny Faure. Other team members are former Rwandan Senator, Jacqueline Mohongayire; Gender and Human Rights activist, Terry Dale Ince (Trinidad and Tobago); journalist Blessings Tunoh Assom (Nigeria) and former deputy head of OSCE Elections Missions, Paul O’Grady (United Kingdom).
Completing the list is Boniface Cheembe, the executive director of the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (Zambia).
Commonwealth secretary general, Patricia Scotland, said she assembled the observer mission after receiving an invitation from Lesotho’s Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to monitor the polls.
The statement quotes Ms Scotland as saying, “Our election observation work is hugely important, helping to safeguard and strengthen the process, culture and institutions of democracy across the Commonwealth”.
“As the former president of Seychelles, His Excellency Danny Faure has led his country to a number of successes and has put his country at the forefront of innovation, technology and economic development. He is well-placed to appreciate the issues at hand and to lead the team in Lesotho.
“The team is independent and impartial. It will assess the overall conduct of the election and will offer any recommendations needed to further strengthen the electoral process in Lesotho,” Ms Scotland added.
The looming elections have attracted widespread attention locally and beyond Lesotho’s borders. Even the European Union (EU), which has never sent observers to Lesotho’s previous elections, have done so this time around.
A 22-member EU observer team was unveiled at a press conference in Maseru last week.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, Chief Observer, Ignazio Corrao, said members of the team would be deployed to all the country’s 10 districts. Their mission would cover six weeks including the pre- and post-election period.
“The 22 observers will assess every aspect of the electoral process including the campaigning by political parties and the preparations for the elections across Lesotho,” Mr Corrao said.