A proposal by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to have voter-validation machines at polling stations was rejected by party leaders this week.
The IEC had hoped the machines would assist members of the public confirm they were at the right station through a simple scan of their voter-registration cards.
IEC Commissioner, Makase Nyaphisi, on Monday told party leaders the machines would ensure no-one spent time in a queue on polling day—only to realise he or she was at the wrong station when they were about to cast their vote.
According to Dr Nyaphisi, the Commission only intended to facilitate the smooth-running of the 28 February 2015 snap elections and future polls with the machines, but the party leaders would have none of it.
Areka Covenant Front For Development (Baena) leader, Paul Masiu, said the machines could end-up compounding an already tricky situation.
“These are very sensitive elections, which are being held earlier than expected, so the use of these machines may not be accepted by the masses. As party leaders, we know they are meant to speed-up the voting process and ensure the people know their polling stations without unnecessary hassles, but that might not be the case with the general public.
“Someone might go to a polling station and be told to go elsewhere which might be faraway, and that person might not take too kindly to that instruction and blame the machine for it, leading to violence,” said Mr Masiu.
Reformed Congress of Lesotho deputy leader, Motloheloa Phooko, also told the meeting that the use of the machines had been rejected in the 2012 election on the grounds they needed to be subjected to a pilot exercise first.
Dr Phooko said the initial plan was for the machines to be tested in the Thaba-Moea and Thaba-Phechela parliamentary by-elections in February 2014 before they could be used in a national election.
“The machines were never tested in those two by-elections as agreed, so we still believe they cannot be used in a national election without being subjected to a rigorous test,” said Dr Phooko.
On his part, a Democratic Congress (DC) representative, Popane Lebesa, agreed with Dr Phooko, adding: “When we were preparing for the last elections, discussions about the deployment of the machines were done under the impression that they had not yet been purchased.
“We had agreed the machines should not be procured until all the party leaders had been assured of their reliability.
“If we don’t get a report indicating the machines passed the test we are talking about, then that means we are back to 2012, when we said we could not use them,” said Mr Lebesa.
All Basotho Convention (ABC) representative, Futho Hoohlo, also agreed the machines should be tested for reliability first before being used in such a crucial election. The IEC has not bought the machines “in bulk”, according to Dr Nyaphisi.
“Already, there are concerns about the status of the voters’ roll, and you are telling us that the same suspect register is going to be fed into these machines. This is a new thing in our elections, so it needs to be thoroughly tested first.
“We need to have a new voters’ roll after these elections so that when we digitalise the electoral processes, we know we are starting a fresh register. This is because we all agree the roll we have is not perfect so let’s not use these machines with this suspicious roll,” said Mr Hoohlo.