- electoral body worried by proliferation of parties
TWO years after its formation, the little-known Basotho Liberation Movement (BLM) formally became Lesotho’s 41st party after receiving its registration certificate from the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) over the weekend.
It became the sixth party to be registered since the November 2020 appointment of IEC chairperson, Mphasa Mokhochane, and his fellow commissioners, Karabo Mokobocho and Tšoeu Petlane.
Led by ‘Mapuleng Montši, the BLM becomes the fourth woman-led party in the country. However, the proliferation of parties has got the IEC concerned.
In his speech marking BLM’s formal registration, Commissioner Petlane said if the trend continues, it would not be a surprise if Lesotho would be having at least 100 political parties by the time the 2022 elections are held.
“Looking at the rate at which political parties are registering, there is a possibility that we could be having 100 parties by the time of the 2022 elections,” Commissioner Petlane said.
“We should be asking ourselves what’s causing this (proliferation of parties).
“Maybe democracy is at work. It could mean that freedom of association and expression are at play and there is room for everyone to participate. If so, that’s a good thing.
“However, it could also mean that there is political intolerance among politicians and anyone can form their own party whenever they fall out with others in their previous parties.
“This could also mean that we have derailed and lost our way. We really need to look into what each party brings to the table,” Commissioner Petlane added.
He also said the mushrooming of parties meant the reduction of money each of them would receive from the IEC to help fund their operations.
“It (proliferation of parties) also poses a challenge as to whether the political parties will satisfy the needs of the electorates and ensure stability in the country.
“We know that you (BLM supporters) want your leader to be the next prime minister. You want the electorate to trust her but this can only be attained through transparency, accountability and desisting from corruption.
“You should practice good governance. We expect you to have a good working relationship with us and actively take part in all IEC activities,” Mr Petlane said.
IEC Inspection and Operations Officer, Kotsoane Motsie, apologised for the delay in registering the BLM. He attributed the delay to the absence of commissioners after the expiry of the previous commissioners’ contracts in January 2019.
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 2019.
The Transformation Resource Centre (TRC) and two others also filed a July 2019 Constitutional Court application demanding a broad based, public, transparent process for the appointment of IEC commissioners. The civic group also sought the nullification of the appointment of Workplace Solutions as the consultants in the recruitment of new IEC commissioners, arguing that the recruitment company was appointed illegally.
The TRC’s co-applicants were one Maieane Khaketla, who was seeking to be appointed IEC commissioner, and the African Ark political party.
The Constitutional Court dismissed the TRC and its co-applicant’s application on 11 August 2020 on the grounds that the applicants lacked the legal standing to stop political parties from recruiting new IEC commissioners.
The verdict was upheld by the Court of Appeal on 12 October 2020 thus paving way for the November 2019 appointment of the current IEC commissioners.
Messrs Mokhochane, Mokobocho and Petlane were sworn-in last December by Chief Justice Sakoane Sakoane at the High Court buildings.
Commenting on the long delay in registering BLM, Mr Motsie said, “BLM attempted to register with us on 1 February 2019 and their certification today marks an end to their long wait.
“We delayed to certify them because there were no commissioners. We would like to take this opportunity to apologise for any inconvenience we could have caused them,” said Mr Motsie.
On her part, BLM leader Montši said it had been taxing journey before they were finally certified by the IEC.
“”This has been quite a difficult journey for me, there was a time when I even threw missiles at the IEC operations officer for delaying us. I even asked if I had to pay a bribe before I could be registered because some who came after me had already been certified.
“However, I am very happy because today we can rejoice and be glad because the Lord has been with us,” Ms Montši said.
The BLM becomes the fourth female led party in the country after the Keketso Rantšo’s Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), former RCL secretary general ‘Machabana Lemphane-Letsie’s HOPE party and Harvest FM radio owner ‘Malichaba Lekhoaba’s United for Change (UFC) party.