MASERU — The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has for the first time accredited 66 opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party activists to observe this weekend’s three by-elections.
The ABC activists are among the 112 election observers who have been accredited by the IEC to observe the by-elections in Mpharane, Sebapala and Hololo constituencies this Saturday.
The group of observers includes among others the president of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations, Lira Theko, and Public Diplomacy, Economic and Political Officer at the United States Embassy in Maseru, Sara Devlin.
Addressing the election observers at a local hotel on Tuesday, a commissioner with the IEC, Dr Fako Likoti, said observers should stay neutral and discharge their duties in a professional manner.
“Elections in Lesotho are always said to have gone well only to later hear grievances such as lack of transparency,” Likoti said.
“We want these election results to be accepted by everyone. When we talk elections, it’s about ballots not bullets. Elections are not meant to create conflict.”
Likoti warned the observers to stay neutral while observing the elections.
“When observing elections you are neither a political activist nor (do you wear) the colours of your political party,” he said.
“You must observe and say it like it is. Do not massage the truth and do not dress your reports. They should be as straightforward as possible.”
He warned the ABC observers not to wear party regalia during the elections.
“You should not put on your yellow and green colours or raise objections at the polls. Only party agents have the responsibility to do so if and when they see fit,” Likoti said.
The IEC has often come under fire from opposition parties and civic groups for allegedly siding with the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.
The elections body has however rejected the charges insisting its conduct has always been above board.
Likoti said the observers should not interfere with the election process by crowding polling stations.
Instead they should take note of whether the polling stations open on time and that they have all the necessary equipment.
“Yours will also be to observe the queues and behaviour from voters and whether police officers are doing their job,” Likoti said.
“You should also note when and how elections results are announced and when polling stations are closed.”
Likoti said the IEC was committed to delivering a “transparent, accountable and clean” election process.
“We want to inject a culture of election observation, but we have to start somewhere and have all the logistics in place at the right time,” Likoti said.
“We also want to make the system transparent, accountable, clean and comfortable. We are starting with this by election.”