IEC can redeem itself

A PROPOSAL by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s law committee to amend Lesotho’s electoral rules could prove a key turning point in halting post-election conflicts in Lesotho.

If adopted, the proposals could significantly alter Lesotho’s electoral playing field.

The opposition has often mourned that the current election rules were heavily skewed in favour of the ruling party.

Under the new rules the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party could be barred from using government resources during election time.

It could also see all political parties being granted equal access to state media during election time.

Lesotho’s opposition parties have, as a matter of habit, cried foul after every election complaining that the LCD had an unfair advantage because of the power of incumbency.

As a result Lesotho has often had to deal with violent protests after every election.

We think this is totally unnecessary as it sidetracks the government from its fight against poverty and hunger.

The new electoral rules could help break the cycle of post-election violence that we have witnessed since 1970.

Second, the new rules could also help ensure we have credible elections whose outcome is not contested.

Lesotho needs to stop this business of plunging the country into conflict after every election.

We must be able to manage our elections as Basotho without the need to summon foreigners to mediate in post-election chaos.

The proposals are however not entirely new.

The Southern African Development Community (Sadc) adopted similar guidelines almost a decade ago.

The idea was to ensure that southern African countries conducted credible polls.

In practice however we have seen some ruling parties within southern Africa throwing out the rule book in a desperate ploy to stay in power.

Sadc appears impotent to enforce its own rules.

For Lesotho however the challenge is whether the LCD is willing to level the playing field in the first place.

We would like to believe that the current leadership in government cares about their legacy.

It would be in their interest to leave a peaceful Lesotho that has successfully found a way of dealing with its demons of the past.

Adopting these rules would certainly be one sure way of ensuring that they leave a strong, democratic Lesotho for future generations.

We are aware that several regimes on the continent have reduced the electoral process to a virtual charade.

Electoral theft is rife.

Ballot stuffing has been perfected to an art.

Voters have therefore lost confidence in the electoral process. Lesotho has not yet sunk that low.

However the government needs to do more to restore the people’s confidence in the voting process.

Come 2012 we expect Lesotho to hold a squeaky clean election.

We expect no repeat of the 2007 fiasco.

Basotho of all political shades of opinion need to be assured that their votes will count.

They need reassurance that the election will not be stolen from them either through gerrymandering of constituencies or a skewed electoral playing field.

The proposal also gives the IEC a chance to do things differently. The commission has often been accused of being in bed with the ruling party.

This is a grand chance for the body to salvage its reputation and reassure Basotho that it is a truly independent institution.

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