Opposition want harmonised polls

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MASERU — Three opposition parties have asked the government to consider pushing the local council polls, scheduled for October 1, to early next year.
The Lesotho Times can reveal that  leaders of the Basotho National Party (BNP), All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) are proposing that the local council polls should be merged with the parliamentary elections that are expected to be held in February or March next year.
The opposition leaders met Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla at his Qhobosheaneng office on Monday to discuss the proposal.
The ABC leader, Thomas Thabane,  confirmed on Tuesday that they approached Lehohla with a proposal to merge the two elections to save money.
Thabane said Lehohla promised to discuss the matter with government and then report back to them.
“We do not know what the government will say but we hope that they will understand and appreciate that holding the two elections together will save us a lot of money,” Thabane said.
“It is in the national interest that we save money. We cannot afford to spend all our money on elections and then grapple  with  food shortages afterwards,” he said.
BNP leader Thesele ’Maseribane told the Lesotho Times that a better half of the Monday meeting with Lehohla was spent dealing with the  question of  whether the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) would be able to hold a free and far election with “such an unclean voters’ roll”.
A report by elections expert Roberts  Johnson titled The State of the Voters’ Roll as at July 2011 revealed that Lesotho’s voters’ roll is currently inflated by over 100 000 voters because the IEC has failed to clean the register regularly.
’Maseribane said the opposition leaders agreed to go to Lehohla to show him the difference “between the proper registration of voters and the detestable registration that the IEC is currently doing”.
“We told him that we could compromise and allow the local government elections to be held with this voters’ roll but we would refuse to go to the national elections using the same roll,”
“Now the problem would be: How is the IEC going to have time to clean the voters’ roll after the local government elections in preparation for the February 2012 national elections?
“Surely there will be no time for that because the IEC has failed to do proper registration despite that it had five years to do so,” ’Maseribane said.
He said it was clear that the IEC would not be able to clean the voters’ roll between October and February next year.
’Maseribane said they suggested to Lehohla that registration of voters should be done by a separate body from the IEC and “the IEC’s business should be limited to the running of elections”.
“Before and after every election since 1993 we have been complaining of the voters’ roll,” he said.
He added that the BNP had found out that some names of dead people had not been removed from the voters’ roll while some registered voters with registration cards did not appear on the list.
The BNP treasurer, Sekhohola Molelle, said in his ’Makhoroana constituency, one electoral division of Tsokung, names of about 55 people holding voter registration cards do not appear on the list.
“We have similar complaints from several other constituencies, which shows that many people will be turned away on election day,” Molelle said.
“Surely, we cannot have peaceful elections if so many people will be told that they do not qualify to vote because their names do not appear in the roll when they know well that they have registered,” he added.
“We do not want to see chaos on polling day. We have to avoid the 1998 situation.”
’Maseribane added that in some cases, photos on the voter registration cards were not clear.
“Anybody can just challenge that you are not the person whose picture is on the voting card merely because the picture is not clear,” he said.
“We can endure that for the coming local government elections but with the national elections, where we are forming the central government, we will absolutely not compromise,” ’Maseribane said.
“This work (voter registration) has overwhelmed the IEC and it is now the duty of all stakeholders to ensure that registration is done properly and that the voters’ roll is acceptable to all,” he said.
The IEC training and publicity officer, ’Mamatlere Matete, said local government elections could still be held despite problems in the voters’ roll.
Matete said the Johnson report had noted that it was possible to hold free and fair elections using this roll.
“We agree as the IEC that there are some weaknesses in the voters’ roll but that does not mean that we cannot carry on with elections. Even the report by an expert engaged by the IEC in July showed that we can still hold elections,” Matete said.

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