Commission in bid to absolve itself from mess over PR seats

MASERU — The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) last night tried to distance itself from the mess surrounding the allocation of proportional representation seats, sources who attended the closed talks told the Lesotho Times.

The IEC has been accused of wrongly allocating PR seats, causing serious friction between the government and the opposition.

But last night the IEC appeared to absolve itself from any wrongdoing.

IEC legal officer Leteka Mohale told delegates that the commission had not filed an affidavit on the points of law in the case between the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and itself.

Sources said Mohale shocked the delegates when he alleged it was actually the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) that had filed that affidavit.

The affidavit argued that the courts did not have jurisdiction over the matter.

MFP lawyer Molefi Ntlhoki confirmed it was the LCD that had filed the affidavit. 

“With this affidavit they were drawing the court’s attention to the issue of its jurisdiction.”

He said this was eventually the question that killed the case.

The courts agreed and threw out the MFP’s application.

The MFP was challenging the alliances between the LCD and the National Independent Party (NIP) as well as the one between the All Basotho Convention and the Lesotho Workers Party. 

It was also demanding the reallocation of the seats.

“The IEC defence really shocked everyone because all along we had always thought it was them that filed that affidavit,” the source said.

“This was news to the people in the opposition. We were startled.

“We believe that they are now trying to pass the bark to the government in order to duck responsibility.”

The source said the IEC also maintained it had done the allocation according to the Electoral Act. But when Mohale was asked what the constitution said about this issue he did not respond, according to the source.

During the talks the government and the opposition agreed to give the arbitrators more time to consult and investigate the nature of the dispute before they could make their recommendations.

“We said they must arm themselves with enough knowledge about the issue by consulting with experts before they come back to us,” the source said.

“They will only come back to us when they have thoroughly analysed the issues.

“The opposition said they had proven beyond reasonable doubt that what the IEC did was unconstitutional.

“But they also said if the arbitrators find that they are wrong then they will withdraw their case on the allocation of seats.”

The source said the parties agreed that the timeframe for the talks will be two months, starting from the first meeting which was held on August 6.

The meeting also had its lighter moments, another source who attended the talks said.

Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla stood up again as he did in the first meeting and said there would be no turning back on the seats issue.

“We all broke out in laughter as he spoke,” the source said.

“It has now become a joke and the bishop laughed too.”

Lehohla said the talks would undermine the court’s decisions if they were to reallocate the seats, the source said.

At this juncture, the source said, the meeting became hard on parties who publicly say they will not be shifted from their stance on the seats issue.

“The meeting talked about the speech of Prime Minister (Pakalitha Mosisili) at the LCD rally in Berea last week where he said they would not allow the talks to shift their stance,” he said.

The source said the meeting agreed that the parties should not utter such statements.

It was again agreed that no delegate should talk to the press.

The talks are being facilitated by the Christian Council of Lesotho under the chairmanship of retired Anglican Church of Lesotho Bishop Phillip Mokuku.

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