Bumpy road ahead of Lesotho poll

By  Sechaba Mokhethi

Maseru – While the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has announced determination to deliver a credible election and that they remain on course and faithful to their calendar, extra-mural events pose a serious threat to a free and fairly run electoral process.

The electoral body has voiced concern over forecast weather patterns in the country, with citizens put on high alert for the week preceding, during and after elections, due to extreme weather conditions predicted over polling day.

Light snow has, beginning May 13, fallen over the mountainous parts of the country, igniting fear that this will likely deter voting on June 3. Lesotho is known for its harsh winters, characterised by cold winds and excessive snow in the highlands.

The weather has adversely begun to affect the Mokhotlong, Thaba-Tseka and Qacha’s Nek districts comprising a total of 12 constituencies. The status quo is likely to prompt deferment of voting to a later date should the weather not improve.

The IEC had announced in a May 3 press briefing that there was no snow forecast until mid-June. IEC Commissioner, Makase Nyaphisi, cautioned, however, that should voting be disrupted by snowfall in any of the said districts, elections would be postponed until the harsh conditions calmed.  This would force the electoral commission to reserve the announcement of final results until such time that these constituencies will have voted and submitted results.

About 9 of the 12 constituencies that are likely to be affected by snow are Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili-led Democratic Congress (DC) strongholds, and should such a scenario unfold it will leave Mosisili with a weaker bargaining power when parties form pacts to set up a new government.

Opposition pact crippled

The opposition goes to the contest limping after the IEC declared failed elections in two of their strongholds, Thupa-kubu and Hololo constituencies,   following the recent deaths of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) candidate for Thupa-kubu and Basotho National Party (BNP) candidate for Hololo.

The ABC and the BNP are part of an opposition bloc quartet that also includes the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL) and the newly founded Alliance of Democrats (AD).  The bloc commanded the support of 74 members in Lesotho’s 120 members National Assembly that toppled Mosisili through a vote of no confidence.

In Thupa-kubu, Afrika Makakane, who died in a suspicious car accident last week had garnered 3, 946 votes in the 2015 elections while the DC amassed 2, 450 votes. The ABC is similarly stronger in Hololo.

According to the IEC the situation in the two constituencies will not stall the formation of a new government after the June 3 elections. However, there will be special ballot where voters will only elect parties and not candidates to cater for party votes in the two constituencies.

Lesotho uses a Mixed Member Proportional Electoral Model, which comprises the First Past the Post and Proportional Representation models, 40 parliamentary seats are allocated on party vote percentages on top of won constituency seats.

Electoral pacts

The electorate goes into the June 3 elections courted by mainly two propensities that are likely to form a new government, the two-party pact of Mosisili’s DC and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) led by Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing.  They have under their wing minnows Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) which is led by home affairs minister Lekhetho Rakuoane.

The pact is touted as a resuscitation of the ‘congress’ political doctrine in Lesotho and will see the DC contesting in 54 of the country’s 80 constituencies while the LCD will vie for 25 constituencies, the PFD will be helped to wrestle its Qalo constituency stronghold from the ABC. On the other hand, Mosisili and colleagues will be up against competition from the four-party opposition bloc of the ABC, BNP, RCL and the AD.

The quartet has agreed to pool votes to ensure victory in the Abia, Mount-Moorosi, Taung and Machache where their four leaders will be contesting and a similar strategy will be employed in Tsoelike and Mahobong constituencies where Mosisili and Metsing, respectively, are seeking re-election.

Reforms dialogue shelved

Following a series of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) interventions and decisions of Lesotho’s political and security problems, the status quo remains and government’s posture of agreed upon reforms could have a bearing on elections as well as post elections events.

Mosisili has accused SADC of impinging on the country’s self-determination in its issuance of resolutions obliging government to honour.

In a scathing letter to SADC chairman, King Mswati III, penned on April 4, Mosisili tears into the communiqué of the Lozitha Palace Extra-Ordinary Summit of SADC Heads of State and Government issued on March 18 instructing Lesotho to implement a barrage of its resolutions from previous summits and meetings.

Mosisili is irked by the statement’s contents in paragraphs 11, 12 and 13 as well “the procedure followed in the adoption of the communiqué” on issues pertaining to both constitutional, political and security reforms.

The opposition quartet last month called for the holding of the multi-stakeholder national dialogue as mandated by SADC, sentiments further echoed during the visit of the Commonwealth Secretary General, Patricia Scotland, recently.

This dialogue ought to have been held before elections and also included building consensus and trust among stakeholders as well as mapping the way forward regarding the implementation of the SADC recommended reforms.

The dialogue has failed to take off. During his visit to Maseru two weeks ago SADC appointed facilitator and South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa, deferred the dialogue to after elections – alluding to time constraints as this is an elections period.  According to information from his office, all partners agreed to the postponement of the dialogue, but there is murmur in Maseru from the opposition that they were dissatisfied with the decision.

This abandonment of talks over reforms remains a problem for the country.

In their separate rallies ahead of elections the opposition bloc has taken this up as a campaign tool, promising to implement all the SADC decisions and proposed reforms upon assuming office, a dent on Mosisili’s campaign message as his government has failed in this regard.

May 2017
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