Electoral Commission needs overhaul

THE Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is among the most criticised public institutions in Lesotho.

Most of the criticisms which are directed at the IEC focus on the supposed mismanagement of the electoral system as well as general governance of the commission.

The opposition has also accused the IEC of massaging electoral results in favour of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.

Such accusations are however highly debatable.

Nonetheless, there is agreement between opposition parties and political analysts that there are structural flaws within the IEC.

These structural problems undermine the credibility of the electoral commission and the whole electoral management system.

In this article I will focus on the management weaknesses within the IEC which are affecting its integrity.

I will also seek to provide alternatives to the status quo.

The top structure at the IEC is the commission which is currently made up of three people.

Theoretically the commission should deal with the governance of the entire electoral body.

In simple terms the commission is supposed to act like a board of directors.

We all know that the major responsibilities of a board of directors are supervision, policy decision-making and providing able leadership.

The person who is supposed to take charge of daily operations should be the director of elections not the chairperson of the commission.

Ideally the director of elections should act as a chief executive officer of the commission.

In principle the chief executive officer should run the daily administration of the organisation as a representative of the board.

But under the current structures the chairperson seems to be the one who is taking the roles of the chief executive officer of the electoral body.

The disadvantage is that this creates confusion regarding the separation of powers between commissioners and the office of the director of elections.

The involvement of the commissioners in the daily running of the commission creates room for politicians to be suspicious of their conduct.

If questions are raised over the conduct of commissioners the electoral body will not have an opportunity to salvage its reputation.

Unless the office of the director of elections is restructured by elevating it to the level of CEO it will not have the capacity to run all its activities properly.

In order to beef up the office of the director of elections the IEC must first revamp its administration and management.

The commission must also transform other critical sections such as the legal affairs, voter education, conflict management, research and information.

These departments must be set up as separate entities with competent heads or directors who will focus on micro-management of their departments.

The government of Lesotho should also focus on giving technical and financial support to the IEC.

Government departments are some of the most unaccountable institutions in Africa.

They are marred by corruption, nepotism and patronage.

The IEC must be allowed to recruit its own staff without any influence from outside.

The IEC must be truly independent from the government.

But in Lesotho the interests of the government are often the interests of the ruling party.

Executive committee members of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy are senior public officials and they are politicians who have an obligation like any other ordinary member of the party to protect the interests of the party.

The role of the government will in most cases be subjected to that of the party.

An independent director of elections should be allowed to recruit the right people to work for the commission regardless of party affiliation.

There is also a perception that the commission is stuffed by ruling party sympathisers.

There is a perception that those who are considered anti-government are not being allowed an opportunity to work for the commission.

This needs to change.

All senior positions within the IEC should be allocated strictly to outstanding professionals who have a clean record.

Such professionals can help reduce the costs of outsourcing services to outsiders.

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