Party lead­ers re­ject poll ma­chines

Lesotho Times - - Elections 2015 - Billy Ntaote

A pro­posal by the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) to have voter-val­i­da­tion ma­chines at polling sta­tions was re­jected by party lead­ers this week.

The IEC had hoped the ma­chines would as­sist mem­bers of the public con­firm they were at the right sta­tion through a sim­ple scan of their voter-reg­is­tra­tion cards.

IEC Com­mis­sioner, Makase Nyaphisi, on Mon­day told party lead­ers the ma­chines would en­sure no-one spent time in a queue on polling day — only to re­alise he or she was at the wrong sta­tion when they were about to cast their vote.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Nyaphisi, the Com­mis­sion only in­tended to fa­cil­i­tate the smooth-run­ning of the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions and fu­ture polls with the ma­chines, but the party lead­ers would have none of it.

Areka Covenant Front For Devel­op­ment (Baena) leader, paul Ma­siu, said the ma­chines could end-up com­pound­ing an al­ready tricky sit­u­a­tion.

“Th­ese are very sen­si­tive elec­tions, which are be­ing held ear­lier than ex­pected, so the use of th­ese ma­chines may not be ac­cepted by the masses.

“As party lead­ers, we know they are meant to speed-up the vot­ing process and en­sure the peo­ple know their polling sta­tions with­out un­nec­es­sary has­sles, but that might not be the case with the gen­eral public.

“some­one might go to a polling sta­tion and be told to go else­where which might be far­away, and that per­son might not take too kindly to that in­struc­tion and blame the ma­chine for it, lead­ing to vi­o­lence,” said Mr Ma­siu.

re­formed Congress of le­sotho deputy leader, Mot­lo­h­eloa phooko, also told the meet­ing that the use of the ma­chines had been re­jected in the 2012 elec­tion on the grounds they needed to be sub­jected to a pi­lot ex­er­cise first.

Dr phooko said the ini­tial plan was for the ma­chines to be tested in the Thaba-moea and Thaba-phechela par­lia­men­tary by-elec­tions in Fe­bru­ary 2014 be­fore they could be used in a na­tional elec­tion.

“The ma­chines were never tested in those two by-elec­tions as agreed, so we still be­lieve they can­not be used in a na­tional elec­tion with­out be­ing sub­jected to a rig­or­ous test,” said Dr phooko.

on his part, a Demo­cratic Congress (DC) rep­re­sen­ta­tive, popane lebesa, agreed with Dr phooko, adding: “When we were pre­par­ing for the last elec­tions, dis­cus­sions about the de­ploy­ment of the ma­chines were done un­der the im­pres­sion that they had not yet been pur­chased.

“We had agreed the ma­chines should not be pro­cured un­til all the party lead­ers had been as­sured of their re­li­a­bil­ity.

“If we don’t get a re­port in­di­cat­ing the ma­chines passed the test we are talk­ing about, then that means we are back to 2012, when we said we could not use them,” said Mr lebesa.

All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) rep­re­sen­ta­tive, Futho Hoohlo, also agreed the ma­chines should be tested for re­li­a­bil­ity first be­fore be­ing used in such a cru­cial elec­tion. The IEC has not bought the ma­chines “in bulk”, ac­cord­ing to Dr Nyaphisi.

“Al­ready, there are con­cerns about the sta- tus of the vot­ers’ roll, and you are telling us that the same sus­pect reg­is­ter is go­ing to be fed into th­ese ma­chines. This is a new thing in our elec­tions, so it needs to be thor­oughly tested first.

“We need to have a new vot­ers’ roll af­ter th­ese elec­tions so that when we dig­i­talise the elec­toral pro­cesses, we know we are start­ing a fresh reg­is­ter.

“This is be­cause we all agree the roll we have is not per­fect so let’s not use th­ese ma­chines with this sus­pi­cious roll,” said Mr Hoohlo.

RCL deputy leader Mot­lo­h­eloa Phooko

Baena leader Paul Ma­siu

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