Elections date set

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’Marafaele Mohloboli | Bongiwe Zihlangu

LESOTHO’S eagerly anticipated crunch elections will be held on 7 October this year.

The date was proclaimed by His Majesty, King Letsie III, in a government gazette issued yesterday. With the issuance of the gazette, electioneering, which had already gripped the country since last year when some parties began campaigning, will now go up a gear and reach fever pitch ahead of 7 October.

In the same gazette issued by the King this week, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s director of elections, Mpaiphele Maqutu, stated that the country was now officially in the election period. This period would run from 19 July to 8 October 2022, Mr Maqutu said.

“I, King Letsie III, pursuant to Section 37(1) of the National Assembly Electoral Act, 2011, and acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, proclaim the 7th day of October 2022 as the day on which the general elections to return members of the National Assembly for all constituencies of the Kingdom of Lesotho are to be held,” His Majesty states in the gazette dated 19 July 2022.

“I direct the director of elections of the Kingdom of Lesotho to cause the general elections to be conducted in accordance with the National Assembly Electoral Act, 2011 on the day mentioned above.”

With the proclamation of the election date by His Majesty and the simultaneous gazetting of a roadmap to the polls by Mr Maqutu, it is now all systems go for Lesotho’s ubiquitous political parties. It remains to be seen whether all 65 of them will field candidates.

Several other activities have been lined up in the election roadmap including the nomination of party candidates for both constituency and proportional representation (PR) seats on 9 September 2022.

Anyone wanting to raise objections to candidates on the party lists will do so on Monday 3 October.  Determinations on the objections will be done the same day.

Advance voting by people who would have been approved by the IEC will happen on 30 September.  Applications for advance voting will open on 12 September with approvals or rejections being made on the same day.

Election results will be announced on 8 October 2022.

At the last elections in 2017, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), then led by Thomas Thabane, claimed most of the constituency and proportional seats  at 53. It fell short of the 61-seat threshold required to form government.  The ABC was therefore forced to cobble a coalition pact with the Alliance of Democrats (AD-nine seats), Basotho National Party (BNP- five seats) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL- one seat).

The Democratic Congress (DC), then under the leadership of former Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, was a distant second with 30 seats.

Since then, the ABC and DC, who eventually cobbled together a new coalition government in 2020 to replace the Thabane administration, have experienced mixed fortunes.

The ABC has suffered serious infighting which led to the formation of several break-away parties. The most notable are the Teboho Mojapela-led Socialist Revolutionaries (formed in 2017), the Nqosa Mahao-led Basotho Action Party and the Tefo Mapesela-led Basotho Patriotic Party (both formed in April 2021).

Even now there are two warring factions led by new leader Nkaku Kabi and Prime Minister Moeketsi Majoro. It remains to be seen whether the reconciliation efforts recently announced by Mr Kabi will come to fruition to rejuvenate the party for a good showing at the polls. So far, Dr Majoro has not attended any of Mr Kabi’s rallies as the latter had promised to prove that the two foes had buried the political hatchet.  In an ominous warning against Dr Majoro, a popular Famo gang leader – Sello Sarele Sello threatened to deal with the prime minister unless he started attending Mr Kabi’s rallies.

On the other hand, the DC has been reinvigorated under the leadership of youthful Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu. The massive crowds at its rallies point to increased support for DC ahead of the polls. In addition, it has remained squabble-free unlike the ABC.

The ABC, DC and former Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Congress (LCD) have been the big three of Lesotho’s politics in recent times. However the LCD seems to be on a slide towards oblivion with its leader, Mr Metsing, in South Africa after fleeing prosecution. The ABC appears to have been weakened by its endless infighting.

If it were not for the March 2022 formation of business mogul, Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP) party, conventional wisdom had been that the 7 October polls would have been Mr Mokhothu’s to lose.

The RFP has nonetheless rattled the political field. Within the first weeks of its formation, the RFP had lured bigwigs from other parties.

The AD was the hardest hit when former cabinet minister Mahali Phamotse and four other senior officials dumped it for the RFP.

Former Development Planning minister Tlohelang Aumane; former Finance minister Leketekete Ketso; former Deputy Minister of Health, ‘Manthabiseng Phohleli and deputy secretary general Batlokoa ‘Makong were the others who dumped the AD for the RFP.

Former BNP stalwart Joang Molapo, former ABC and BAP legislator Fako Moshoeshoe have also made the beeline to the RFP.

They joined a stellar cast of founding RFP members who include former Central Bank of Lesotho (CBL) governor, Retšelisitsoe Matlanyane; former Chief Justice Nthomeng Majara and Moshoeshoe Walk organiser, Thabo Maretlane. Former Lesotho National Development Corporation (LNDC) head of investment promotion, Mokhethi Shelile, prominent businessman Lephema Lebona and former Accountant General, Sam Mphaka.

This mix of seasoned politicians and prominent citizens, seems to have helped in luring the crowds to RFP rallies. If crowds alone were an exact indicator of actual voter preferences, Messrs Matekane and Mokhothu will be right to begin their respective countdowns to State House. It remains to be seen how they have both gained from the near implosion of the ABC and how they would  have impacted on once promising parties like the BAP, which debuted with 10 MPS in parliament after Prof Mahao’s defection from the ABC.

 

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