…as countdown to 28 February 2015 election begins
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson, Mahapela Lehohla, has lamented the “tight schedule” the electoral body has to follow leading to the 28 February 2015 snap election.
Lesotho goes to the poll two years early after the coalition government failed to last the prescribed five-year period due to a bitter power-struggle between Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his deputy, Mothetjoa Metsing.
Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by Mr Metsing and Thesele ‘Maseribane respectively, formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 election had failed to produce an outright majority winner. However, sharp differences between Dr Thabane and Mr Metsing over the premier’s powers with respect to the “consultative nature” of their alliance resulted in the collapse of the government and dissolution of parliament last Friday.
The Southern African Development Community (SADC), which tried but failed to unite the feuding parties through South African Deputy President Cyril Ramaphosa, then facilitated the early election but according to Justice Lehohla, ensuring everything is in place by the scheduled poll date would be a huge challenge for the IEC.
Mr Lehohla told a press conference held in Maseru on Tuesday this week: “We have a tight schedule leading to the election on 28 February 2015, and there can be no understating the challenge we face in delivering a credible poll under such pressing conditions.
“As the IEC, we would have wanted 10 months to prepare for the election but due to the pressing political instability in the country, the commission had to compromise and agree to the schedule presented by SADC Facilitator (to the Lesotho crisis) Cyril Ramaphosa.
“We were already working on by-elections for Mphosong constituency and local government, but had to shift to the snap election at short notice. The SADC Facilitator said the election should be held as soon as January 2015, but we pleaded with him to allow us more time, and proposed April 2015. However, Mr Ramaphosa told us that after the dissolution of parliament on 5 December, elections should be held in line with the country’s constitution and National Assembly Electoral Act of 2011.
“The Facilitator said according to this law, we are supposed to hold elections within 90 days of the dissolution of parliament. He asked us to identify a suitable date within this timeframe, and the only suitable date 28 February,” said Justice Lehohla.
However, the former chief justice said the commission would ensure a credible poll despite the limited preparation time.
“A snap election, by its definition, is a pressing election. We have to do a lot of activities within a short period of time. It’s very difficult to deliver such a crucial poll in such a short period; we can’t even explain enough how difficult it is to deliver the snap election in such a short space of time.”
Justice Lehohla noted the election period begins on 8 December and concludes on 7 March 2015 after the announcement and allocation of parliamentary seats.
“You will also recall that Section 7 (2) of the National Assembly Electoral Act requires that 17-year-olds, who will be 18 years on or before election day, be given seven days to register and the last day for this exercise is 16 December 2014.
“This therefore, means voter-registration will be suspended between 17 December 2014 and 8 March 2015,” Justice Lehohla said.
For his part, IEC Commissioner, Makase Nyapisi said SADC had pledged to assist Lesotho with the election.
“The SADC support is going to be through experts who will assist with the running of the election,” Dr Nyapisi said.
Funding poser for IEC
Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairperson Mahapela Lehohla says government’s delay to disburse the over M200 million budgeted for next year’s general election was causing unnecessary problems for the supervisory body.
Basotho choose a new government on 28 February 2015, two years earlier than expected after the collapse of the tripartite administration led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Irreconcilable differences between Dr Thabane and his deputy, Mothetjoa Metsing, over the premier’s alleged failure to consult his fellow government leaders when making key decisions, led to the collapse of the country’s first coalition administration and next February’s snap election that was facilitated by the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
Dr Thabane’s All Basotho Convention (ABC), Mr Metsting’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) led by These ‘Maseribane formed a coalition government after the 26 May 2012 had resulted in a hung parliament.
However, addressing a press briefing held at the IEC headquarters in Maseru on Tuesday this week, Mr Lehohla said the commission needed the promised funding as a lumpsum and not tranches the way it is currently being disbursed by the government.
“The issue of funding is putting the commission under unnecessary pressure. We need to pay for the repair and maintenance of the voters’ roll printer and other expenses to make sure the election is free and fair.
“The printer has not yet been repaired and such delays put us under pressure because snap elections are a pressing form of elections; they are held at short notice and so we need to be adequately prepared because time is not on our side,” Justice Lehohla said.
The IEC, he added, had thought after cabinet approved the poll budget on 30 November, the money would be immediately disbursed as a lumpsum.
“The IEC was allocated M17million for the Mphosong by-election and after the poll was cancelled, we were told to use the money for February’s snap election.
“This week, the IEC received M13million from government, so all in all, we have been given M30million of the promised M200million. Such delays can only make the job of the IEC that much harder, which should not be the case.”
Meanwhile, IEC Operations Inspector, Kotsoane Motsie told the same press briefing that while 19 parties contested the 2012 election, a total of 20 had already registered for the 28 February election, while seven more had applied for registration.
“The Reformed Congress of Lesotho was registered and granted a certificate of registration today (Tuesday), which brings the number of registered political parties to 20 at the moment. Seven more have submitted their applications for registration and since the Electoral Act doesn’t provide any deadlines, the parties would be registered if they meet the requirements,” Mr Motsie said.