Court to hear BDNP poll challenge

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BDDNP Vice-President of the party Pelele Letsoela
BDDNP Vice-President of the party Pelele Letsoela

Tefo Tefo

THE High Court has set 26 May 2015 as the date on which to hear a case in which the Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) wants the National Assembly’s Proportional Representation (PR) seats nullified.

The party approached the court on 1 April 2015 seeking an order nullifying a government gazette which declared 40 candidates PR Members of Parliament (MPs) for the ninth National Assembly, arguing the calculations were based on incorrect figures.

Three High Court judges who presided over the case, namely Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara, Justice Tšeliso Monaphathi and Justice Semapo Peete, on Monday this week decided on the hearing date, which they said allowed time for the respective lawyers to exchange the necessary information and documents.

According to papers filed before the court, the party wants “Gazette No 35 of 2015 relating only to the Proportional Representation (PR) seats to be declared irregular, null and void for its omission of the Basotho Democratic National Party.”

The application also seeks the court to direct the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), as the First Respondent, to “publish a fresh gazette relating to the PR seats, which include the BDNP.”

The party’s argument is that the PR seats were calculated based on incorrect figures, which excluded independent candidates’ votes.

In his supporting affidavit, BDNP vice-president, Pelele Letsoela says excluding independents in the calculation denied his party a PR seat, which he says was then awarded to the Democratic Congress (DC).

The DC was awarded 10 of the 40 PR seats in the wake of the 28 February 2015 parliamentary elections, which brought the party’s total seats to 47 after it had won 37 constituencies.  The DC has since formed a coalition government with six other “Congress” parties, with its leader, Pakalitha Mosisili being sworn-in as the country’s prime minister on 17 March 2015.

Mr Letsoela notes in the affidavit: “On 28 February 2015, Lesotho went for general elections.

“The applicant (BDNP), as a registered party with the First Respondent (IEC), was a contestant with other registered parties and fielded candidates in constituencies like other political parties which chose to do so.

“There were also independent candidates.

“As provided by the law, the applicant was entitled and availed itself, of a list of its Proportional Representation list of which the present deponent (myself) was its First Candidate.”

However, Mr Letsoela states the IEC got it wrong in awarding the DC 10 PR seats, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) 10 PR seats after winning two constituencies, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) six PR seats for winning 40 constituencies, and the Basotho National Party  six PR seats after winning one constituency. The Popular Front for Democracy and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) received two PR seats each, while the Lesotho People’s Congress, Basotho Congress Party, Marematlou Freedom Party and National Independent Party were each awarded one PR seat.

But according to Mr Letsoela, excluding his party was a big mistake by the IEC.

“The exercise went horribly wrong when it came to PR seats. It did not follow the formula set out by Section 104, read with Schedule 3 of the National Assembly Election Act No 14 of 2011.

“The applicant believes that in the calculation, the IEC did not take into account the votes of the electorate who voted for independent candidates in order to arrive at a required quota to distribute the 40 seats for PR as mandated by the law,” he stated.

Mr Letsoela further notes in the court papers that the IEC relied on the figure of 563, 922 as the total number of votes, excluding 5651 people who voted for independent candidates.

“That’s how the exercise went horribly wrong and against the spirit and letter of Proportional Representation, whose objectives are that each vote be counted and where need be, it be represented in parliament.

“The long and short of it is that the IEC distributed seats in accordance with the model of ‘First-Past-The-Post’, only to twist it around to bring in Proportional Representation seats to distort what the law provided,” Mr Letsoela stated.

Meanwhile, the Speaker of the National Assembly, Minister of Law, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Attorney General, all the political parties which contested the elections and the 40 PR MPs, are cited as respondents in the lawsuit.

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