Low voter turnout should be wakeup call

Sunday Express - - LEADER -

THE low voter turnout in yes­ter­day’s lo­cal gov­ern­ment polls and three by­elec­tions should serve as a wakeup call for the po­lit­i­cal class. Vot­ers who spoke to the Sun­day Ex­press yes­ter­day af­ter cast­ing their bal­lots spoke of a weari­ness with the rou­tine of elect­ing politi­cians to var­i­ous po­si­tions with­out any dis­cernible change in their daily lives.

Politi­cians, from across the po­lit­i­cal di­vide, need to be alarmed at the grow­ing dis­en­chant­ment vot­ers are show­ing as the for­mer fight among them­selves. The re­al­ity is no­body wins if the elec­torate be­comes dis­in­ter­ested in the elec­tions.

It ac­tu­ally shows that no one po­lit­i­cal party or ide­ol­ogy is truly dom­i­nant, as vot­ers vac­il­late be­tween var­i­ous par­ties in a bid to get the least ter­ri­ble op­tion.

Le­sotho’s much vaunted elec­toral sys­tem is ac­tu­ally un­der threat from ap­a­thy as the num­bers of vot­ers con­tinue to dwin­dle.

While some com­men­ta­tors can point to the lim­ited in­ter­est in lo­cal gov­ern­ment elec­tions by vot­ers and the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion’s fail­ure to mo­bilise peo­ple to vote, the clear rea­son is that peo­ple are tired of do­ing the same thing over and over again and ex­pect­ing a dif­fer­ent re­sult. Renowned Ger­man-born sci­en­tist, Al­bert Ein­stein de­scribed it as in­san­ity.

If there is any­thing that the body politic will need to take from th­ese elec­tions is that vot­ers are more in tune with is­sues of ser­vice de­liv­ery than with the brinkman­ship that has seen one gov­ern­ment suc­ceed an­other in two-year cy­cles.

Con­trary to the pre­vail­ing no­tion that youths are ap­a­thetic about pol­i­tics, they are just dis­il­lu­sioned and don’t see the point in vot­ing for politi­cians whom they in­creas­ingly re­gard as cor­rupt and dis­hon­est.

Ev­i­dently, there is a trust deficit that our politi­cians need to bridge if Le­sotho’s demo­cratic jour­ney is to en­dure.

If they wish to win the trust of a large and in­flu­en­tial chunk of our pop­u­la­tion, they need to take vot­ers, par­tic­u­larly young peo­ple, se­ri­ously.

Sim­ply hold­ing big ral­lies or “street bashes” does not en­cour­age real po­lit­i­cal en­gage­ment or sup­port.

Af­ter the mu­sic stops play­ing and the in­flu­ence of al­co­hol wanes, peo­ple are more con­cerned with find­ing lead­ers that ad­dress their day to day chal­lenges.

So­cial me­dia should not be un­der­es­ti­mated as a tool for talk­ing to young peo­ple.

Tech­nol­ogy can link de­ci­sion mak­ers and po­lit­i­cal elites with “hard-to-reach” groups such as young peo­ple.

Politi­cians need to meet the elec­torate at their point and not to molly cod­dle them with su­per­fi­cial prom­ises. Vot­ers who spoke to this publi­ca­tion were pri­mar­ily con­cerned with the bring­ing of var­i­ous ser­vices and ameni­ties such as wa­ter, elec­tric­ity and good roads than they were with the congress or na­tion­al­ist di­vide.

As for the can­di­dates who have been granted the hon­our and priv­i­lege to serve their com­mu­ni­ties by the elec­torate, bear in mind that vot­ers are now very fickle and will want to see more de­liv­ery and less talk.

The sooner they get to it the bet­ter.

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