IEC taken to court over seats allocation

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Tefo Tefo

BDDNP Vice-President of the party Pelele Letsoela
BDDNP Vice-President of the party Pelele Letsoela

The Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) wants the High Court to nullify a government gazette which declared 40 candidates Proportional Representation (PR) Members of Parliament (MPs) for the ninth National Assembly, arguing the calculations were based on incorrect figures.

According to papers filed before the court on Wednesday last week, the party wants “Gazette No 35 of 2015 relating only to the Proportional Representation (PR) seats to be declared irregular, null and void for its omission of the Basotho Democratic National Party.”

The application also seeks the court to direct the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), as the 1st respondent, to “publish a fresh gazette relating to the Proportional Representation seats, which include the BDNP.”

The party’s argument is that the PR seats were calculated based on incorrect figures, which excluded independent candidates’ votes.

In his supporting affidavit, the party’s vice-president, Pelele Letsoela says excluding independents in the calculation denied his party a PR seat, which he says was then awarded to the Democratic Congress (DC).

The DC was awarded 10 of the 40 PR seats in the wake of the 28 February 2015 parliamentary elections, which brought the party’s total seats to 47 after it had won 37 constituencies.  The DC has since formed a coalition government with six other “Congress” parties, with its leader, Pakalitha Mosisili being sworn-in as the country’s prime minister on 17 March 2015.

Mr Letsoela notes in the affidavit: “On 28 February 2015, Lesotho went for general elections.

“The applicant (BDNP), as a registered party with the 1st respondent (IEC), was a contestant with other registered parties and fielded candidates in constituencies like other political parties which chose to do so.

“There were also independent candidates.

“As provided by the law, the applicant was entitled and availed itself of a list of its Proportional Representation list of which the present deponent (myself) was its 1st candidate.”

However, Mr Letsoela stated the IEC got it wrong in awarding the DC 10 PR seats, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) 10 PR seats after winning two constituencies, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) six PR seats for winning 40 constituencies, and the Basotho National Party  six PR seats after winning one constituency. The Popular Front for Democracy and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) received two PR seats each, while the Lesotho People’s Congress, Basotho Congress Party, Marematlou Freedom Party and National Independent Party were each awarded one PR seat.

But according to Mr Letsoela, excluding his party was a big mistake by the IEC.

“The exercise went horribly wrong when it came to Proportional Representation seats. It did not follow the formula set-out by Section 104 read with Schedule 3 of the National Assembly Election Act No 14 of 2011.

“The applicant believes that in the calculation, the 1st respondent (IEC) did not take into account the votes of the electorate who voted for independent candidates in order to arrive at a required quota to distribute the 40 seats for PR as mandated by the law,” he stated.

Mr Letsoela further states in the court papers that the IEC relied on the figure of 563, 922 as the total number of votes, excluding 5651 who voted for independent candidates.

“That’s how the exercise went horribly wrong and against the spirit and letter of Proportional Representation, one of its main objectives being that each vote be counted and where need be, it be represented in parliament.

“The long and short of it is that the 1st respondent distributed seats in accordance with the model of ‘First-Past-The-Post’, only to twist it around to bring in Proportional Representation seats to distort what the law provided,” Mr Letsoela stated.

He gave an example of Likhetlane constituency where he said Dr Timothy Thahane contested the election as an independent candidate and received 1 715 votes.

Dr Thahane came second in the constituency behind an ABC candidate who had 3 143, while a DC representative came third with 1 174 votes.

However, Mr Letsoela argued that Dr Thahane’s votes were not considered when the PR seats were being allocated, which he says should not have been the case.

Mr Letsoela added: “The correct formula to be applied after adding the votes for political parties and independent candidates would be as follows: 569, 623 ÷ 120 = 4 746.8583; rounded up = 4 747 quota.

“The net effect of the correct distribution of the proportional representation seats as demonstrated above would yield one seat for the BDNP. The current distribution excludes the applicant to its prejudice.”

He further said the exclusion of his party from the ninth Parliament denied it financial benefits.

“The applicant stands to lose all financial benefits which directly relate to it as more fully tabulated below:

  • Forfeiture of M8, 000.00 Proportional Representation deposit in terms of the law.
  • Forfeiture of M20, 000.00 annually as a party for the seat it has been deprived of.
  • Forfeiture of M80, 000.00 equity annually as a party in terms of the law.

“In the result and for reasons stated above, the applicant prays that it be granted the relief prayed for in the notice of motion.”

Meanwhile, the respondents had not indicated by yesterday whether or not they would oppose the application.

The respondents are the IEC, Speaker of the National Assembly, Minister of Law, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs, Attorney General, all the political parties which contested the elections and the 40 PR MPs.

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