Polls on mid-October: IEC

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Kaleen Chikowore

THE much-anticipated 2022 general elections are most likely going to be held around mid-October, the newly appointed director of elections at the Independent Electrical Commission (IEC), Mpaiphele Maqutu, has said.

Widespread reports have been suggesting that the elections are due in September 2022.

But Adv Maqutu said this was not the case. If the electoral timeline is properly calculated on the basis that the elections should be conducted within 90 days after the Council of State has advised His Majesty King Letsie 111 to dissolve parliament, then the logical date for the next elections will be around mid-October.

The September timeline was a result of misunderstandings emanating from the assumption that since the current legislators were sworn in June 2017, then it follows that the next elections will be held in September, he said.

But although legislators were sworn in June 2017, the National Assembly’s first sitting, on the basis of which its dissolution date is determined — was on 14 July 2017.  If parliament is dissolved in July after its five-year tenure, then it means the latest date for the next elections would be around mid-October.

Adv Maqutu said the mid-October timeline was also backed by a memo from the office of the clerk of the National Assembly dated 11 July 2017.

“We have a document that shows when the Speech from the Throne, which kicked off the work of the current parliament, was delivered by His Majesty,” Adv Maqutu said.

“A lot of people talk of September, but it is not correct. We have reliable information that it was on the 14th of July when the parliament first sat. Based on this information the elections are then supposed to be held mid-October. The memo removes a lot of ambiguity.

“However, if there are debates around that, we will go to the office of the Attorney General, which has the legal authority to advise the government, for clarifications of the actual legal position on when to hold the elections”

IEC public relations officer, Tuoe Hantši, also weighed in saying the memo from the clerk of the National Assembly also confirmed that the next elections should be held mid-October.

“The law provides that the term of parliament will not exceed five years. Therefore, calculating from 14 July 2022, the Council of State will have four days to advise the King to dissolve parliament. Therefore, the law provides that from 17 July 2022, the King will announce the election date within 90 days. So again, the latest date will be 17 July 2022 plus 90 days and that gives us 17 October 2022. We are not saying that is the final date but based on the legal framework, that is most likely our date,” Mr Hantši said.

The current parliament held its first sitting on 14 July 2017 following the 3 June 2017 elections which ushered in the second Thomas Thabane-led governing coalition. However, Mr Thabane was replaced as prime minister by his own All Basotho Convention (ABC)’s Thetsane constituency legislator, Moeketsi Majoro, on 20 May 2020.

Mr Thabane was replaced without parliament being dissolved. This means that the current parliament’s term ends in July 2022 and elections can therefore, be held 90 days later, around mid-October 2022, Adv Maqutu said.

IEC operations had been crippled by the absence of commissioners from January 2019 until December 2020 when new commissioners were appointed. This enabled the appointment of the director of elections on 1 March this year.

Current IEC chairperson, Mphasa Mokhochane and fellow commissioners, Karabo Mokobocho and Tšoeu Petlane, were appointed by King Letsie III on the advice of the Council of State in December 2020.

Their appointments ended the long wait for IEC commissioners after numerous court battles had delayed the replacement of the previous commissioners whose contracts expired in January 2019.

Former IEC chairperson, Justice Mahapela Lehohla, ‘Mamosebi Pholo and Makase Nyaphisi’s contracts expired on 7 January 2019 and the previous Thomas Thabane-led government refused to renew them.

But the process of appointing new commissioners was delayed by several court applications including the trio’s Constitutional Court application to try to cling to their posts. It was dismissed in October 2019.

Despite this, the appointment of new commissioners could not be done due to a constitutional application by the Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) and two others demanding a broad based, public, transparent process for the appointment of IEC commissioners. The TRC’s co-applicants were one Maieane Khaketla, who was seeking to be appointed IEC commissioner, and the African Ark political party.

The Constitutional Court dismissed the TRC and its co-applicant’s application on 11 August 2020 on the grounds that the applicants lacked the legal standing to stop political parties from recruiting the new IEC commissioners. The verdict was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 12 October 2020 thus paving way for the December 2020 appointment of the current IEC commissioners.

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