Elections back on track

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… as IEC completes review of 20 constituencies as ordered by court.

Mohalenyane Phakela

THE Independent Electoral Commission(IEC) says it has managed to put its house in order and elections will proceed as planned on 7 October 2022.

The elections were thrown into doubt last week after the Constitutional Court  (CC) ordered the electoral body to redo the delimitation of 20 constituencies after declaring them erroneous.

A bullish IEC this week said it had complied with the court ruling and was raring to hold the highly-anticipated elections.

A gazette was issued this week illustrating the corrected 20 constituencies. This was followed by a statement from the IEC  indicating that the elections would proceed on 7 October 2022 as proclaimed by His Majesty King Letsie III.

The IEC is mandated, in terms of section 67 of the Constitution, to review and delineate, if necessary, the 80 national constituencies after every eight to 10 years. The last delineation exercise was done in July 2010. It catered for the 2012, 2015 and 2017 national elections.

The current delineation exercise commenced in 2018 and was completed in April this year based on the 2016 population census.

However, 20 of the 80 constituencies were found either  to have more or less people compared to the minimum or maximum thresholds stipulated  for a constituency in the law.

The minimum threshold is 13 956 while the upper limit is 17 058 people per constituency. However, the constituencies, including former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Tsoelike (12 749 people), Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Qhoali (17 458) and Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) leader, Sam Matekane’s home turf of Mantšonyane (13 862 people) were found to have discrepancies.

Others found with discrepancies were Mechechane (12 977 people), Mphosong (17 380), Tsikoane (17 574), Moselinyane (22 883), Kolonyama (13 870), Tšoana Makhulo (13 240), Phoqoane (17 791), Matelile (13 822), Mohale’s Hoek (19 844), Phamong (19 861), Hloahloeng (13 824), Moyeni (19 789), Mount Moorosi (17 334), Qacha’s Nek (18 401), Lebakeng (12 806), Thaba Moea (12 807) and Bobatsi (13 070).

The Constitutional Court had last week ordered a re-delineation of these constituencies  following an application by the Democratic Congress (DC) and Movement for Economic Change (MEC) for the nullification of the IEC’s entire constituency delimitation exercise.

The court refused to nullify the entire exercise but ordered a relook of the 20, forcing the IEC to go back to the drawing board to correct the discrepancies. A gazette (Legal Notice No. 78 of 22) has since been issued illustrating the corrections and paving way for the elections to proceed.

Mechechane now has 14 473 people, Mphosong (16 563), Tsikoane (17 015), Moselinyane (16 980), Kolonyama (17 038), Tšoana Makhulo (14 035), Phoqoane (16 585), Matelile (15 018), Mohale’s Hoek (17 048), Phamong (17 031), Hloahloeng (16 654), Moyeni (17 056), Mount Moorosi (16 899), Qhoali (16 975), Qacha’s Nek (16 975), Lebakeng (14 154), Tsoelike (14 316), Mantšonyane (14 123), Thaba Moea (14 326) and Bobatsi (14 036).

The CC’s judgment had thrown the elections into doubt because the delimitation of constituencies is generally a complex process. But the IEC has reassured the nation that the elections would now proceed on 7 October 2022 as originally planned.

“The IEC hereby notifies voters and the nation at large that it has obeyed the court order in relation to the case of constituency delimitation which had been instituted by the DC and Mr Mochoboroane. The IEC has completed the exercise and corrected the 20 constituencies,” the IEC said in a statement.

“The IEC officers will further engage communities of the affected villages. The Commission also reassures the nation that elections will be held on 7 October 2022 as the court ordered.”

In their constitutional application filed in May this year, the DC and Mr Selibe Mochoboroane’s MEC had asked the court to nullify the entire delimitation exercise and use the 2010 constituency boundaries used in three previous elections.

The application was heard by the CC bench comprising of Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane (presiding) and Justices Realeboha Mathaba and ‘Maliepollo Makhetha. They heard the matter on 21 June 2022 and reserved judgement until last week.

The IEC, Law and Justice Minister Lekhetho Rakuoane, Attorney General Rapelang Motsieloa and 50 political parties were the first to 53rd respondents in the application. The cited parties included the All Basotho Convention (ABC) – the lead party in the governing coalition alongside the DC and MEC.  The Basotho National Party (BNP), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Matekane’s fledgling RFP were also cited.

Reading the judgement on behalf of the bench on 8 August 2022, Justice Mathaba said the 20 constituencies were non-compliant in that they were either below or above the required population quota.

“The imperatives of the rule of law demand that crossing this red line (minimum and upper population threshold per constituency) be declared as null and void in terms of section 2 of the Constitution……,” Justice Mathaba said.

“The IEC’s job is to delimit constituency boundaries. It is also to hold elections and not withhold them. But holding elections on the basis of constitutionally flawed constituencies constitutes a subversion of the principles of voter parity and equal representation which are the building blocks of a sovereign democratic country proclaimed in section 1 of the constitution…

“Based on the doctrine of constitutional validity, the 20 constituencies are invalid. As a result, going ahead to hold elections before the constituencies are corrected will be tantamount to conducting elections on the basis of legally flawed constituencies thereby desecrating the constitution.

“The court considered whether the 20 non-compliant constituencies can be severed from the rest. It is not possible to sever them because elections have to be held on the same day throughout the Kingdom in terms of section 80 of the Electoral Act. The Act does not provide for partial or staggered elections. The 80 members of the National Assembly must be elected the same day and enter parliament on the same day with other 40 elected on the principle of proportional representation.

“The court takes judicial notice that during the pendency of this matter, the King by proclamation appointed 7 October 2022 as the date of elections. This is the target date the IEC should chase in the course of taking any corrective measures in respect of non-compliant constituencies to ensure that the elections are held on the proclaimed date,” Justice Mathaba said.

 

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