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Polls to maintain code of conduct

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Bongiwe Zihlangu

MASERU — Political parties have proposed that this year’s local government polls adopt the code of conduct used for the national elections to ensure uniformity.

This is according to a list of proposed laws released on Wednesday by the Lesotho political parties’ law committee on the development of local government elections regulations.

The committee was established to provide legal advice to the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) on the development of regulations for the local government elections.

Part of its mandate was to come up with a new code of conduct for the local government elections which are scheduled for September 10.

The committee however said after much deliberation it had decided to adopt the code of conduct for the national assembly elections.

The code of conduct for the national assembly elections dictates that political parties should not engage in bribery and vote-buying. 

It states that parties should promote free political campaigning and open public debate.

Tšeliso Molise, who represents the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) in the committee, said they had decided to adopt the national assembly elections code of conduct instead of formulating a new one because they wanted “to maintain uniformity”.

“We did not want local government elections to have their own code of conduct independent of the national assembly elections. We want consistency in both elections,” Molise told Sunday Express last night.

“When a political party registers, it signs a code of conduct to which it should subscribe as it is bound by it.”

The code of conduct for national assembly elections also says every political party and candidate shall affirm publicly the rights of all participants in elections “to express divergent political opinion”.

“Participants shall have the right to debate and contest the policies and programmes of other political parties and canvass freely for support from voters,” the code says.

The code says all political parties and candidates shall also condemn political violence and intimidation.

They should also ensure that no weaponry of any kind is carried or displayed at political meetings “or other event of a political nature”.

“Parties should also refrain from publishing false defamatory statements or allegations in connection with an election in respect of a party, its candidates, representative or member,” reads the code.

Plagarising of symbols, colours, or acronyms of other parties are also prohibited under the code.

Furthermore, the code says political parties should discourage and where possible, prevent removal, disfigurement or destruction of political material of any political party.

“Discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, class, gender or religion, in connection elections and political activity should be avoided at all costs,” the code notes.

It adds that all political parties and their candidates should acknowledge the authority of the IEC in the conduct of elections, and implement “its orders and directions”.

The role of the IEC will be to take disciplinary measures against parties, their representatives, candidates and employees if they are found to be in contravention of the provisions of the code and for “committing any offence in terms of the law”.

The law committee has also proposed that the minister responsible for the ministry of local government prepare regulations or guidelines on the procedure followed in the nomination of chiefs “under the Local Government Act, 1997”.

“Such a procedure must indicate as to who is entitled to convene a meeting and where nominations are to take place,” the regulation reads.

 “Indicated should also be the place of nominations and the procedure to be taken should any vacancy arise.”

Where there is a vacancy, the regulations propose, the IEC shall fill such a vacancy within a period of six months, the regulations say.

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