Ad­vance vot­ers kick-start poll

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

A to­tal of 3549 ad­vance vot­ers are ex­pected to cast their bal­lot on Satur­day — kick­start­ing the much-an­tic­i­pated elec­tion of the coun­try’s new gov­ern­ment.

The early vote seeks to cater for em­bassy staff abroad, state se­cu­rity per­son­nel, med­i­cal prac­ti­tion­ers, jour­nal­ists and elec­tion ob­servers, who would be on duty when the rest of the na­tion goes to the poll on 28 Fe­bru­ary.

Bal­lot pa­pers for the ad­vance poll were brought into the coun­try from South Africa yes­ter­day, while the rest would be de­liv­ered on Satur­day, ac­cord­ing to Act­ing Direc­tor of Elec­tions, ‘Ma­matlere Matete.ms Matete fur­ther said the bal­lot pa­pers would be un­der 24-hour pro­tec­tion at the IEC Ware­house in the Maseru Industrial Area to re­as­sure stake­hold­ers that they would not be tam­pered with.

“From the day of their ar­rival, the pa­pers are go­ing to be pro­tected by the po­lice, and mem­bers of the Lo­gis­tics Com­mit­tee who rep­re­sent all the 23 po­lit­i­cal par­ties con­test­ing the elec­tions,” Ms Matete said yes­ter­day.“from the ware­house to the dis­trict of­fices, the bal­lots pa­pers would still be un­der tight se­cu­rity and this ar­range­ment re­mains un­til the day of the elec­tions.”

Ms Matete re­it­er­ated the role of the Le­sotho De­fence Force (LDF) in the elec­tions is only to de­liver bal­lot pa­pers to the re­mote con­stituen­cies and not pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity on polling day.

Some po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers had strongly ob­jected to the mil­i­tary pa­trolling the coun­try­side on polling day, fear­ing their pres­ence could spark bloody con­fronta­tions with the po­lice with whom they have a very frosty re­la­tion­ship. The clashes, the lead­ers fear, could then lead to an­ar­chy.

“We de­cided, at our meet­ings as rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the IEC, Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ser­vice, Le­sotho Mounted Po­lice Ser­vice, Le­sotho De­fence Force and South­ern African Devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity Ob­server Mission that army he­li­copters are go­ing to be used for the de­liv­ery of vot­ing ma­te­rial to and from the re­mote vot­ing sta­tions.

“In ad­di­tion to the LDF pi­lot and co-pi­lot, there would also be a po­lice and IEC of­fi­cer, and a SADC rep­re­sen­ta­tive in the he­li­copter.

The rest of the LDF mem­bers would be in the bar­racks on elec­tion day as they would have cast their votes al­ready on 21 Fe­bru­ary as ad­vance vot­ers.”

A to­tal of 1 216 021 peo­ple are on the vot­ers’ roll, while 1 106 can­di­dates would battle-it-out in the 80 con­stituen­cies up for grabs. Mean­while, IEC Com­mis­sioner, Makase Nyaphisi, says the great­est chal­lenge Le­sotho faces is how par­ties would re­act to the elec­tion re­sults.

Dr Nyaphisi made the re­mark at yes­ter­day’s launch of the SADC Elec­toral Ob­server Mission to Le­sotho.

Ac­cord­ing to the com­mis­sioner, po­lit­i­cal party lead­ers would be sign­ing an Elec­toral Pledge on Satur­day to reaf­firm their com­mit­ment to a free and fair elec­tion and also that they would ac­cept the out­come of the vote.

Dr Nyaphisi also high­lighted the chal­lenges the com­mis­sion con­tin­ues to face as it pre­pares for the elec­tions which are be­ing held two years early due to a dis­pute be­tween the rul­ing part­ners, namely Prime Min­is­ter and All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion leader Thomas Tha­bane, Deputy Prime Min­is­ter and Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy leader Mo­thetjoa Mets­ing and Sports Min­is­ter and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party leader Th­e­sele ‘Maserib­ane.

“Some of the chal­lenges we are fac­ing as the IEC in­clude lo­gis­tics to­wards the de­liv­ery of vot­ing ma­te­rial and what could hap­pen af­ter the polls.

“We are anx­ious about the re­ac­tion of the var­i­ous par­ties to the elec­tion re­sults.“we also had pro­cure­ment chal­lenges re­gard­ing elec­tion ma­te­rial as the date of the polls was only an­nounced on 8 De­cem­ber 2014.

This meant we only had two months to pre­pare for the elec­tions but again, most com­pa­nies were closed in De­cem­ber for the fes­tive sea­son break.

“We also had to seek waivers for cer­tain fi­nan­cial and pro­cure­ment is­sues to be cleared, but in some cases, th­ese were granted very late. How­ever, I am happy to say we still man­aged to do what we wanted to do within the limited pe­riod,” said Dr Nyaphisi.

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