Lesotho under pressure to go for early poll, IEC chair

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Maseru – Pressure is mounting on Lesotho to hold early election than scheduled in 2017 due to political unrest, it has emerged.

The pressure, according to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) chairman Justice Mahapela Lehohla has been launched from both local and foreign forces as a resolve to the political breakdown despite unpreparedness.

Justice Lehohla, also president of the SADC Electoral Commissions Forum, was reacting to questions and observations at a two-day national dialogue for pre-election peace building that ended here yesterday.

IEC Chairperson, Justice Mahapela Lehohla, on the right, in suit at the TRC dialogue, yesterday.
IEC Chairperson, Justice Mahapela Lehohla, on the right, in suit at the TRC dialogue, yesterday.

“We’re heading to the election in difficult circumstances and a challenge is how the civil society groups are organized to monitor how political parties will conduct themselves,” said Justice Lehohla, deliberating on civil society electoral monitoring map.

He said due to limited time for election taking place, it was likely that some electoral laws might be flouted, a situation he said should be afforded due regard.

However, he encouraged the IEC and the civil society groups to cooperate in ensuring free, fair and credible election come February 2015, noting that safety and security were necessary ingredients for electors to vote freely.

It is a matter of paramount importance that the electors vote freely and that can be achieved by decreasing risks through a pro-active involvement of the civil society, he told the meeting.

In reference to voter registration, Justice Lehohla believed fair election was a result of good data collection and storage.

Lesotho is in the process of preparing for snap election brought about by a fall out in relations between the ruling All Basotho Convention, Lesotho Congress for Democracy and the Basotho National Party of the coalition government.

At the conference, civil society groups came under scrutiny with some participants arguing the non-state actors were not actively in their advocacy initiatives.

Criticising the civil society, Professor Nqosa Mahao said the organizations were now operating in boardrooms than in setting up national agenda on protecting democratic practices of an elected government. The civil society, he added, should advocate for respect of rule of law.

“Civil society organizations have been watching as the developments unfolded,” he remarked, and wondered whether the organisation’s leaders were now pre-occupied with designing funding proposals.

Participants at the dialogue that included non-governmental organizations, legislators, political parties and media, agreed that local remedies were not fully utilized to resolve the political situation in Lesotho.

The dialogue was organized by the Transformation Resource Centre’s (TRC) democracy and human rights unit and funded by the Canada Fund for Local Initiative.

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