Let’s break culture of post-election conflict

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THE government, opposition parties and the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) will tomorrow sign an election roadmap that seeks to pave way for the holding of a free and fair election later this year.

The decision to sign the pre-election agreement could help defuse tensions among the competing parties.

It could also help create a healthy environment where political leaders can be able to talk freely in a relaxed atmosphere away from the pressure-cooker environment they are so often used to.

It is important that the three parties to the deal have tentatively agreed to the roadmap in committing themselves to contributing to a free and fair election.

It is also important to note that the IEC is pledging to respect the individual’s right to participate in elections.

It has also pledged to work together with all stakeholders in preparing for the election and finding peaceful solutions when disagreements arise.

The IEC has also committed itself to providing enough resources to the voter registration exercise.

It has also pledged to clean up the voter register which electoral experts have condemned as seriously flawed.

We applaud this commitment and wish all the parties to the agreement well.

As we have argued in previous editorials it is important that the IEC conducts a clean election whose outcome is not contested.

We would like to believe the commission is made up of men and women of integrity who wish their country well.

As the onus to run a clean election lies with the commission it is our hope that these men and women will take their responsibility seriously as they discharge this national mandate.

The commission must ensure that all those wishing to be registered are registered before the election. They must also ensure that we have a clean voter register.

Such a register is the springboard upon which a clean election can be launched. The commission must eliminate all ghost voters on the register.

They must not seek to downplay the existence of these ghost voters on the register.

Lesotho is still struggling to shake off its reputation as country where post-election conflict is seen as the norm, thanks to the dinosaurian politics that we experienced after the 1970 general election.

The three parties must ensure we do not have a repeat of that circus in this year’s election.

Lesotho must graduate into a modern, democratic state where voters are allowed to speak, with their voice being respected after an election.

We must break the cycle of post-election conflict.

This year’s election comes against the background of a sham election that we saw in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last year.

We know the sad and traumatic experience that election brought to the Congolese people.

We also know sham elections cost lives and drive away foreign investors. The economic cost to the country is often huge.

Lesotho has traversed that route before. We are confident that no right-thinking Mosotho would want to go through the 1998 experience again.

It is precisely for this reason that the government, opposition and IEC must work closely together to ensure we have an incident-free election this year.

The government must honour its promise to level the political playfield. It must ensure it provides political campaign slots on national radio to opposition parties.

The government must also not seek to emasculate opposition voices on national radio and television.

But opposition parties must act responsibly. They must not incite violence in the event that they lose.

Threats to take their struggle to the streets in the event that they lose the election will only damage what is an already poisoned environment.

The election, which Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla said might be in May, is yet another grand opportunity for Basotho to consolidate the gains of our democracy.

We must use this election to announce to the world that our democracy has finally matured.

Lesotho can join the few countries on the African continent, such as Botswana, Zambia and Ghana, where governments that lost polls have been changed peacefully without resorting to force of arms.

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Lesotho's widely read newspaper, published every Thursday and distributed throughout the country and in some parts of South Africa. Contact us today: News: editor@lestimes.co.ls Advertising: marketing@lestimes.co.ls Telephone: +266 2231 5356

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