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Electoral rules shake-up looms

Staff Reporter

 MASERU — In an effort to level the playing field, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s law committee wants the ruling party to stop using government resources during campaigns in the run-up to the 2012 general polls.

The committee is also pushing for equal access to the state media for all political parties at least three months before the elections.

The opposition has in the past accused the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party of abusing state resources during election campaign periods.

If the law committee’s recommendations are adopted, the LCD will be barred from using government cars and equipment in the run-up to the general election.

“Government transport including official aircrafts, vehicles, machinery and personnel shall not be used for furtherance of the interest of the party in power,” the committee says in a proposal made a fortnight ago.

“Only official vehicles allocated to ministers shall be used.”

The IEC law committee is made up of representatives of all political parties, including the LCD.

 “There has not been any form of control over the use of government facilities including the state media,” Lesotho Workers Party deputy leader Sello Maphalla told the Sunday Express.

Maphalla is a member of the committee.

“The abuse of government resources has been happening for decades,” he said.

“If you look at the state media, for example, the opposition is given very limited access or coverage, probably a month before elections, and that’s not enough when the government has unfettered access all the time.”

The electoral commission law committee’s proposal seeks to align Lesotho’s elections conduct to Sadc’s principles and guidelines governing democratic elections.

“The party in power shall not issue advertisements at the cost of public treasury in the newspapers and other media and the misuses of official mass media during the election period for partisan coverage of political news and publicity regarding achievements with a view to furthering the prospects of the party in power shall be scrupulously avoided,” the committee says.

Throughout the election period, the committee has recommended, government ministers shall not, among other things, “inaugurate roads, provision of drinking water and other public utilities”.

The proposal has been referred to political leaders before it is taken to parliament.

Maphalla said it was critical for parliament to adopt the recommendations which he said would play a major part in levelling the electoral playing field.

“That piece of document is some sort of code of conduct and I don’t see why any responsible government would refuse it,” the legislator said.

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