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Parties take swipe at elections Bill

Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU — Opposition delegates within the Independent Electoral Committee (IEC)’s law committee say the National Assembly Electoral Bill 2011 is “fraught with serious errors”.

The delegation is comprised of Basotho National Democratic Party (BDNP) deputy-leader Pelele Letsoela, Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) deputy-leader Sello Maphalla, Basotho National Party’s Sekhohola Molelle and All Basotho Convention’s Teboho Mohlomi.

The four politicians were earlier this week tasked by the Lesotho Opposition Parties Forum to scrutinise the draft law.

 The Bill seeks to repeal the National Assembly Elections Act of 1992.

Their report presented to the opposition leaders on Wednesday concluded that the Bill does not include views from the opposition parties and civic organisations.

The government should have solicited views from the electorate before bringing it to parliament, the committee said.

 The committee further alleges that there were other issues of fundamental importance which were left out of the Bill although it was initially unanimously agreed that “they be included”. “Parties had agreed that political parties be allowed to challenge election results, but the new proposal limits the right only to proportional representation results,” reads the report.

 “This undermines existing court cases that have already opened the door for a broad challenge on issues such as corruption in constituency elections.”

This restriction is “nonsensical in the light of a single ballot system proposed by the Bill as the result cannot be separated,” the report says.

The Bill also restricts the right of political parties to challenge election results of constituencies, a proposal which is unreasonable and oppressive, according to the report.

The report also takes a swipe at section 2.3 clause 48 (2) (c) which says proportional representation candidates can be treated differently from constituency candidates without elaborating on the prescribed treatment.

“This imposition by the IEC is also unconstitutional,” says the report.

Another bone of contention for the opposition is that section (3.6) clause 65(2) of the Bill is not clear about the code of conduct to be observed “by the party in power”.

“Parties agreed that the code should have a section dealing with the party in power. But in the Bill the party in power is provided for under the norms which are unenforceable,” the report says.

Any complaint about the abuse of incumbency is not justifiable by the courts of law so the clause is meant to mislead the public and international committee, it says.

The political parties also have a gripe with section 2.1 clause 42 (2) (C) which says a deposit amount for the registration of parties for elections would be prescribed by the electoral commission “at a later stage”.

“Parties agreed on the deposit of M300 but the IEC imposed a clause which provides that the fee is to be prescribed later,” reads the document.

The report says stakeholders agreed on a principle of no deposit for proportional seats but the IEC has in the Bill imposed a fee of forty times the prescribed fee “of the constituency candidate”.

“The constituency fee has not yet been described and that means it can even be M1000 for a candidate,” it says.

As a result the PR list could cost a party as much as M40 000 even if it only contests only two or three constituencies as a single ballot system is preventing it from collecting votes in the other 77 constituencies, the report says.

The opposition also has a problem with section 2.2 clause 27(2) which addresses the issue of deregistration of a party if it fails to contest elections including “failure to contest a by- election”.

This clause, the report says, is oppressive and probably unconstitutional in that if a party boycotts elections it will be deregistered.

The opposition also accuses the government sneaking into the Bill the “single/special ballot” which says that party votes for PR would be based only on the number of constituencies “it has contested”.

“But the irony is that even if a party contested one constituency when it submits a PR list, it is expected to pay a deposit equivalent to a party contesting all eighty constituencies,” it says.

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