The Commonwealth Observer Mission to Lesotho's General Elections has met various stakeholders in Lesotho to get a glimpse of the election
One of the critical issues that the Mission was keen to know about was the preparedness of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to hold the election.
Various responses have been offered for this question. One of them is that the IEC was inaugurated late and has had to prepare for elections within a short space of time.
Mr Mphasa Mokhochane, Dr Karabo Mokobocho and Mr Tšoeu Petlane, were appointed on 1st December, 2020 by King Letsie III on the advice of the Council of State. They came into after a long time since the last IEC vacated office in 2018. Mr Mokhochane was appointed as Chairperson of the Commission.
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 last year.
Views from civil society and the media indicate that the IEC is relatively ready to hold a free, fair, transparent and credible election.
There is general feeling that the playing field is levelled enough to grant Basotho an opportunity to express their will in the ballot box on Friday.
There are no reports of intimidation of any political party to canvass its proposed offer to the voter regarding what it will do if elected into power.
There are no reports of conflicts among members of the public, which would impact negatively on the ability of voters to fulfil their fundamental right of freely voting for their representatives.
However, a critical issue that seems to be mindboggling as far as preparation for the elections is concerned is that of the shambolic voters’ roll, which has not been cleaned for a period over a decade.
A voters’ roll is at the heart of the credibility of an election as it contains the names of people who are going to cast a vote and if it is shambolic and untidy, it defeats the sanctity and purity of the election.
A shambolic voters’ roll has the potential to erode the voters’ and political parties confidence and trust in the election.
Even if an election were to pass the acid test of being free, fair and transparent, throughout the electoral process, a shambolic and impure voters’ roll can provide a fertile ground for players in the field to easily find fault when they have lost.
The issue of financial ability of the
As regards the role of the media in the election, observation is that the media has afforded contesting parties, equitable opportunity and space to canvass their manifestoes to the voters.
Specific reference has been made to the manner the state-owned television and radio broadcaster has allocated slots to the 65 political parties registered with the IEC. The airtime allocated by the state broadcaster is free.
At the time, more than 90% of the contesting parties had gone to the state broadcaster to canvass their manifestoes.
The Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA-Lesotho) felt that thought it had conducted trainings for reporters covering elections on how to effectively interpret manifestoes, there are still observed gaps.
“So far, we have conducted four trainings of media practitioners covering the national elections. We are satisfied with the outcome of the trainings, but there are still grey areas here and there, particularly on interrogation of political leaders as they outline their offer to the voters ahead of the elections,” said a MISA-Lesotho representative to the Commonwealth Observer Mission.
The observers have also been keen to know about is the safety and security of media practitioners during the election period.
MISA-Lesotho assured the Commonwealth Observer Mission that the safety and security of journalists was secured.
Other issues that the observer missions across have sought to know about include the degree of access to information by media practitioners from contesting parties. Feeling is that so far, the media is operating under a free and secure environment.
Basotho are now having their fingers crossed for the time to come when they will be casting their votes on Friday.