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Hefy fee increase for independent candidates in 2012

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Caswell Tlali

MASERU – If you are planning to stand as an independent candidate in next year’s general elections, think again.

Political parties have proposed a 4 000 percent fee hike for independent candidates wishing to contest in the forthcoming 2012 general elections.

The proposed Electoral Law Bill 2011 will require independent candidates to fork out M8 000 to participate in the election, up from the previous fee of M200.

Next year’s elections are likely to be held under the two electoral models – the first past the post model as well as the proportional representation system.

Independent candidates and political parties will be expected to take part in both.

This is the first time that independent candidates will have a right to go to parliament through the proportional representation electoral model.

Political parties reached the decision to raise the requirements at a closed meeting held at United Nations House on Wednesday. Ten parties out of 11 that are in parliament have signed the agreement except the Basotho Congress Party, which is represented in parliament by its leader Thulo Mahlakeng.

The parties have decided that an independent candidate should be treated as if he is a national political party.

According to the current law, candidates stand to be elected in the first past the post system while parties are elected under the proportional representation model.

Candidates under the current law pay M200 irrespective of whether they are independents or are standing under a party banner while the parties pay an additional M8 000 to contest in the proportional representation system.

The proposed law extends the M8 000 fee to independent candidates as well and binds them to submit names under the proportional representation system.

“For the purposes of proportional party list seat allocation, independent candidates in constituencies shall be treated as if they were a national political party,” reads the parties’ agreement which is set to form part of the Electoral Law Bill 2011.

“Independent candidates shall submit a single name on their party list,” the agreement reads.

“There will be a deposit of M8 000 for the party list of candidates accompanied by the prescribed deposit of M200 paid in the prescribed manner.”

However, there will still be a difference between a national political party and an independent candidate who is to be treated as if he is a party.

Parties will still get their proportional candidates in parliament based on aggregate number of votes collected from all 80 constituencies while the independent candidate will be confined to his constituency.

The parties however have different views of the proposed law, with some claiming not to understand the gist of the clause dealing with treatment of independent candidates while others say it is the ruling party’s attempt to manipulate the mixed member proportional system.

The Basotho National Party (BNP) treasurer, Sekhohola Molelle, who attended the meeting told the Sunday Express that his party did not agree with the entire agreement.

Molelle said the BNP believed the clause was an attempt by the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to manipulate the mixed member proportional system.

Molelle said the single ballot and double votes, for first past the post and the proportional representation system, is the LCD’s strategy to win the majority of votes in both electoral methods which will leave other parties with no compensatory seats.

He said the raising of the bar for the independent candidates to enter parliament will work for the LCD because many of its members who might be discontent with their MPs and want to contest independently would be technically barred from standing for elections.

“The BNP does not agree with this agreement,” Molelle said.

“We are not part of an agreement that is going to taint our beautiful mixed member proportional system,” he said.

The Sunday Express also learnt that the BNP breakaway, the Basotho Democratic National Party had also rejected the agreement.

However, Molelle and the BDNP’s representative Pelele Letsoela’s signatures appear on the agreement which clearly states: “Those present hereby affirm their support.”

The Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) leader, Kelebone Maope, said although he signed the agreement he did not fully understand the substance of the clause relating to the independent candidates.

Maope said the LPC only agreed to sign because it understood that the agreement was made in an effort to fight corruption that compromises the mixed member proportion system.

“We only accepted this because it fights corruption in elections,” Maope said.

The Basotho Batho Democratic Party leader Jeremane Ramathebane said he supported the move to raise the bar for independent candidates because parties will not be able to field candidates who are not its own.

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