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Low turnout hits by-elections

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Bongiwe Zihlangu, Caswell Tlali & Ntsebeng Motsoeli

 

HOLOLO — Young voters largely shied away from voting in yesterday’s three by-elections.

Polling officers in all the constituencies — Hololo, Sebapala and Mpharane — reported general apathy among the young voters.

In Hololo, young voters seemed more interested in the school sports games that were happening in Butha Buthe than casting their ballots.

In rural Lesotho children start school late and mostly reach the voting age of 18 while still in secondary school.

It is common to have students who are over 20 in rural secondary schools.

By 9am many students could be seen in Butha-Buthe seemingly unconcerned that there was an election in Hololo.

Some said they were not interested in voting while others said the sports day was more interesting to them than politics.

A significant number of those that had registered said they had not collected their voter registration cards and did not even bother to go to the polling stations.

“I don’t see any importance in elections,” said 19-year-old Lebohang Moremoholo who chose to attend the games rather voting.

“I have seen my parents supporting political parties all their lives but nothing has come out of it,” he added.

By 3pm just over 3 000 voters had cast their ballots at 10 of the 13 polling stations in the constituency.

Presiding officers at polling stations in Sebapala constituency described the turnout as “very low” especially amongst the youths.

The returning officer for Hololo, Molapo Moeletsi, told this paper that by 12pm he had received reports that only about 700 people had cast their ballots since 7am.

Sebapala has 9 512 registered voters drawn from 197 villages.

There were 27 polling stations.

Young voters from Sebapala who spoke to this paper said they had decided to stay away from the polls because they had lost faith in politicians.

They said all MPs they have had since 1993, when democracy returned to Lesotho after years of political turmoil, had dismally failed to uplift the youths.

“They have made promises that they have not kept,” said Solomon Motsomi, 25, from Pontseng Village.

Motsomi did not vote.

In Mpharane the turnout at most polling stations was lower than expected, according to presiding officers who spoke to the Sunday Express.

At Noka-Ntso A polling station only five people had cast their ballots by 8am, an hour after voting had started.

The polling station has 285 registered voters according to figures from the Independent Electoral Commission.

At Noka-Ntso B only four of the 240 registered voters had cast their ballots by 8 am.

Turnout was also low at the four other polling stations that this paper visited.

The Sunday Express news crew visited Ramahlonyane, Mt Camel Primary School, Phala and Maqoala Primary School.

All these polling stations were characterised by low voter turnouts.

The people in the small queues at the polling stations visited were mostly adults.

Results will be announced tomorrow.

 

(Please see an analysis of the by-elections in next week’s edition.)

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