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Focus on elections: Commonwealth told

Caswell Tlali

MASERU — Opposition leaders yesterday said a Commonwealth delegation which arrives in the country today should focus on resolving problems surrounding the preparations of elections in Lesotho.
The Commonwealth political assessment team was due to arrive in Maseru today on a four-day official visit.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the mission will include briefing stakeholders on preparations for the next Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Perth, Australia, in October.
But opposition leaders who spoke to the Sunday Express said the Commonwealth delegation team must adjust its agenda to deal with the perennial problems surrounding the preparations of elections in Lesotho.
The opposition leaders said “the ineffectiveness of the IEC (Independent Election Commission) and financial inequality between parties during election campaigns should top the agenda of our meeting with the Commonwealth”.
Moeketse Malebo, the leader of the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), said they want the Commonwealth team to discuss “how the IEC’s poor performance can be remedied”.
“I would say this should be on top of the agenda,” Malebo said.
“We should find ways in which the IEC can be remedied and this is urgent.”
Malebo said the financial inequality between parties made it difficult for some parties to participate meaningfully in elections.
Sello Maphalla, the deputy leader of the Lesotho Workers Party (LWP), said the delegation should focus on how the issue of election observation can be improved.
He said in most cases election observers normally come on polling day instead of coming earlier to monitor the registration of voters and staying longer to see what happens after elections.
“In our view, there are three phases of elections which are registration, voting and post election events,” he said.
“We of the LWP feel that if all these phases are not observed with equal interest democracy, which we crave for, is likely to be compromised.”
Maphalla said the Commonwealth had proven to be a strong pillar in defence of democracy but its work is often incomplete because they watch the polling process only.
The Commonwealth team is expected to hold meetings with Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his deputy, Lesao Lehohla.
The team is also expected to meet some cabinet ministers, leaders of opposition political parties, the Independent Electoral Commission, director of the Directorate on Corruption and Economic Offences, civil society groups and the UNDP resident representative, Ahunna Eziakonwa-Onochie.
The team will also review the role of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group and the work of the Eminent Persons Group (EPG), a group of former leaders set up to help resolve political crises in member states.
The team is also expected to discuss regional political issues and the Commonwealth’s technical assistance programme.

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