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Election likely in May: Lehohla

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU — This year’s general election is likely to be held in May, Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla said yesterday.

Lehohla said parliament could be dissolved anytime between late February and early March to prepare for the poll.

He said it was important that the election is held before the winter season.

Lesotho is known for its harsh winters characterised by cold wind and excessive snow in the highlands.

“I cannot say for sure when the election will be held but the law is clear that it should be within 90 days after the dissolution of parliament.

“We will probably have elections in May,” said Lehohla who is also leader of the august House.

Parliament will resume on January 18 to work on the formulation of the 2012/2013 budget and this would likely be followed by its dissolution.

“The likelihood is that soon after all the business surrounding the budget is concluded, the Seventh Parliament will be dissolved in preparation for the 2012 elections,” Lehohla said.

“The elections have to be held within this first half of 2012 and not any other time.”

However, Lesotho opposition leaders are sceptical that the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is ready for the elections.

The leaders said they were concerned that the commission seems to be behind schedule with the registration of voters as well as updating the voters’ roll.

They also claimed that IEC chairperson, Limakatso Mokhothu, had failed to honour her pledge to provide 600 mobile registration units (MRUs) to launch the Christmas registration exercise.

The programme was meant to target people who work in South Africa but were expected to come back to Lesotho for the festive holiday.

This paper understands that Mokhothu and the country’s political leaders had agreed that 300 of the mobile registration units would be available by December 19.

Lehohla said the government was convinced that the IEC was ready for the election despite the slow pace at which the commission was carrying out voter registration.

“The main thing which people had their eye on was the voters’ roll which was said to be (fraught) with ghost voters.

“That has been attended to,” he said.

He added that there was no way the election would be postponed as that would be against the law.

“There’s no way that we can reschedule this election simply because the IEC is not ready.

“It just won’t be easy, it will be a violation of the law,” Lehohla said.

But opposition leaders who spoke to the Sunday Express said there was a possibility that the IEC would not have completed the registration of voters by the end of term of the Seventh Parliament.

Lesotho Workers’ Party (LWP) deputy leader, Sello Maphalla, said: “Unless a miracle happens to help the IEC out of this predicament, constitutional affairs minister, Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa, will have to seek an extension of the life of the current parliament to make room for proper preparations”.

“Frankly, if things stay as they are right now and unless a miracle happens, we’ll have to seek legally an extension of parliament,” Maphalla said.

He added that if challenges facing the registration process are not sorted out now the country would have problems.

“Had registration started in December, we’d be ready for elections in April.”

Basotho National Party (BNP) leader, Thesele ‘Maseribane, also feels the IEC is not ready for this year’s general poll although he is not convinced that extending the term of the current parliament would be a proper remedy.

The BNP leader said the IEC does not have a clear registration programme to encourage different sectors of the public to register for elections.

“This became apparent in the local government elections last year.

“Those elections were a clear reflection of poor registration,” ‘Maseribane said.

“At the rate at which registration is going, I don’t think IEC is ready.”

‘Maseribane said if the IEC was ready for elections, it should have already produced a clear programme and demanded notice from cabinet and Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili on when parliament is to be dissolved.

“She should be demanding a meeting with the prime minister and cabinet to brief the IEC on when they are dissolving parliament to show that the commission is ready,” he said.

However IEC media liaison officer, Rethabile Phoolo, on Friday told this paper that the commission was “more than ready” for an election.

“It is not true that there was no Christmas period registration.

“We did register people throughout December.

“Registration started soon after the local government elections,” Phoolo said.

“We’re ready for elections any day.

“Politicians always say what they want.

“We can convene elections anytime after the dissolution of parliament in March.

“We’d have done that by May.”

On the question of MRUs, Phoolo said that the devices had arrived and that the IEC was busy training staff
to operate them adding, “we’re on track”.

“The new MRUs
will only help us intensify registration that is already underway.
“We’re holding a workshop this week to train staff,” Phoolo said.

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