Elec­tion al­ready be­hind sched­ule

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

ELSE­WHERE in this edi­tion, Hu­man Rights, Law and Con­sti­tu­tional Af­fairs Min­is­ter, Haae Phoofolo, dropped a bomb­shell after he told the Se­nate yes­ter­day that gov­ern­ment is yet to se­cure fund­ing for next year’s gen­eral elec­tion.

This rev­e­la­tion makes for very sad read­ing, es­pe­cially given that the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) also re­vealed it is fac­ing myr­iad chal­lenges re­gard­ing pro­cure­ment, struc­tural hi­er­ar­chy, fi­nan­cial and time con­straints, as well as fears of fail­ing to de­liver the highly-an­tic­i­pated Fe­bru­ary 2015 poll.

They are also fears that upon Par­lia­ment be­ing dis­solved in De­cem­ber, pro­cure­ment for elec­tion-re­lated ma­te­rial is go­ing to be ham­pered be­cause sup­pli­ers would have closed for the Christ­mas hol­i­days.

This state of af­fairs is not helped by the dis­jointed man­ner in which IEC op­er­ates, with al­le­ga­tions the com­mis­sion’s hi­er­ar­chy struc­ture is opaque, re­sult­ing in in­sub­or­di­na­tion and du­pli­ca­tion of du­ties.

In a re­cent in­ter­view with this news­pa­per, IEC Act­ing Di­rec­tor of Elec­tions, Mphasa Mokhochane, said they had asked South African Deputy Pres­i­dent and fa­cil­i­ta­tor of the Maseru Fa­cil­i­ta­tion Dec­la­ra­tion, Cyril Ramaphosa, to give them 10 months to pre­pare for the poll.

Un­for­tu­nately for the com­mi­sion, they only have this month of Novem­ber be­fore the elec­tion pe­riod starts in De­cem­ber.

As if all this is not dis­con­cert­ing enough, Min­is­ter of Fi­nance, Leketekete Ketso, has also said his depart­ment is yet to re­ceive any re­quest for fund­ing or the elec­tion bud­get by any­one, in­clud­ing the IEC.

If that is the case, we can only won­der if the 3 Novem­ber ear­marked for the com­mence­ment of voter-reg­is­tra­tion has started with­out a drop of fund­ing from the fis­cus. If the IEC has al­ready failed this lit­mus test, it will give cre­dence to those who will ques­tion the cred­i­bil­ity of the up­com­ing elec­tion. It goes with­out say­ing that voter reg­is­tra­tion is one of the most costly, time-con­sum­ing and com­plex as­pects of the elec­toral pro­cesses. It of­ten ac­counts for a con­sid­er­able por­tion of the bud­get, staff time and re­sources of an elec­tion man­age­ment au­thor­ity. If con­ducted well, voter reg­is­tra­tion con­fers le­git­i­macy to the elec­toral process. It is no won­der that the elec­tion is per­ceived as il­le­git­i­mate should the reg­is­tra­tion sys­tem be flawed.

Es­ti­mates for the elec­tion bud­get, which is just two months away, are placed at M300 mil­lion. If our Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) have their way, gov­ern­ment will also have to fork out the bal­ance of the M500 000 in­ter­est-free loans legislators still owe one of the lo­cal com­mer­cial banks.

This is by no means the MPS’ fault as they qual­i­fied for the loans, which were guar­an­teed by gov­ern­ment, on tak­ing oath of of­fice in June 2012, and were sup­posed re­pay the money over their five-year term of of­fice. How­ever, since the term of the cur­rent gov­ern­ment was un­cer­e­mo­ni­ously cut short, the al­ready bleed­ing fis­cus will bear the brunt.

What be­comes clear in even a cur­sory anal­y­sis of this sce­nario is that gov­ern­ment is ill-equipped and, frankly, un­in­ter­ested in the elec­tion. Un­less they can wave a magic wand which will sud­denly avail all the el­e­ments needed for the hold­ing of the elec­tion in Fe­bru­ary 2015, we are ei­ther headed for a dis­puted out­come, or the date will have to be post­poned.

Which­ever way, Ba­sotho did not sign up for this early elec­tion which is as dis­rup­tive as it is ex­pen­sive. What they signed up for is for this na­tion’s lead­ers to be seized with the ur­gent and oner­ous task of ex­tri­cat­ing this na­tion from the jaws of poverty and de­pri­va­tion.

It’s more likely than not that this Fe­bru­ary 2015 elec­tion is un­likely to bring about the last­ing peace and sta­bil­ity Ba­sotho so much de­serve and yearn for as the stage is al­ready be­ing set for a con­tested out­come. How­ever, since that is what our lead­ers, in con­junc­tion with the south­ern African re­gion, have de­cided for this na­tion, gov­ern­ment should now take se­ri­ously the pro­cesses lead­ing up to the elec­tion and raise alarm bells if it is ill-equipped for the task.

This na­tion’s elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives owe it to their im­pov­er­ished elec­torate to act in the lat­ter’s best in­ter­ests.

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