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Vote counting underway in Lesotho’s polls

by Lesotho Times
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Herbert Moyo

VOTE counting is underway countrywide after the end of voting in Lesotho’s general elections at 5pm today, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has said.

Barring unforeseen circumstances, the final results of the Friday election to choose a new government would be announced Tuesday earliest, the IEC said.

Addressing a press conference in Maseru this evening, IEC Director of Elections, Mpaiphele Maqutu, said polling throughout the country had been conducted in a peaceful manner.

Without giving figures, he said voter turnout was much higher than it had been for the previous elections held on 3 June 2017.

He downplayed reports of voters being turned away from various polling stations, saying when such problems were reported, IEC officials rectified the anomalies to ensure that everybody who had registered was eventually allowed to exercise their right to vote.

He said the IEC would begin announcing results tomorrow morning from its command centre at Manthabiseng Convention Centre in Maseru.

“The results will also be displayed on the IEC website. All things being equal, the earliest the final results could be announced would be four days from tomorrow (Tuesday),” Adv Maqutu said.

He said the IEC had set up a tribunal to deal with any complaints arising from the elections. So far, it had disposed of 15 complaints from various polling stations, he said without elaborating on the nature of the complaints.

The Lesotho Times toured various polling stations around the country. No major disruptive incidents in the voting had been observed or reported. However, some voters and polling officials indicated that some people whose names were not on the voters’ roll were turned away.

Although the IEC said turnout was very high, this publication observed low turnouts in some parts of the country.

For instance, several polling stations in rural Thaba Tseka had very short queues.

Although 2560 candidates from more than 50 parties contested the polls, the election is largely seen as four horse race pitting outgoing Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu’s Democratic Congress (DC), his coalition partner Nkaku Kabi’s All Basotho Convention (ABC) , Professor Nqosa Mahao’s Basotho Action Party (BAP) and business-turned-politician, Sam Matekane’s Revolution for Prosperity (RFP).  Other contestants like Development Planning Minister Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC) may put a solid fight. It remains to be seen what impact another wealthy business tycoon, Teboho Mojapela, will have on the election. Mr Mojapela’s Socialist Revolutionaries (SR) will be fighting national elections for the first time after its tycoon leader ditched the ABC to form the SR in 2018.

A distinguished academic and legal expert, Prof Mahao has government experience as he served as Law and Justice Minister in Dr Majoro’s cabinet from May 2020 until his dismissal in April 2021 for ditching the ABC to form his own party. He has also served as the vice chancellor of the National University of Lesotho (NUL).

Of the three main candidates, Mr Matekane is the only one who has never been in government. He has however, made his name as a savvy multi-millionaire businessman and philanthropist. If elected he would have to summon all his business acumen to tackle the high unemployment rate estimated at over 40 percent and an economy that has virtually collapsed.  

Whoever wins will also have their work cut out in addressing food insecurity, and a crime rate that has now spiralled out of control. Rampant murders, armed robberies and other violent crimes have catapulted Lesotho into the number one slot in Africa and number six in the world for homicides, according to rankings by the World Population Review.

All the political leaders have vowed to tackle these and other challenges head-on if entrusted with power.

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