FORMER Botswana President Festus Mogae, who is leading the Commonwealth election observer mission to Saturday’s polls, has said the group is monitoring the preparations, polling, counting and the release of results, as well as the overall electoral environment.
Addressing a press briefing in Maseru on Tuesday, Mr Mogae said Commonwealth Secretary-General, Kamalesh Sharma, constituted the group, which arrived in the country last week, at the instigation of the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
He said the polls were Lesotho’s chance to end the political turmoil which ensued following the falling out between Prime Minister Thomas Thabane and his deputy Mothetjoa Metsing.
“This week’s elections are significant for Lesotho’s political future,” said Mr Mogae.
“They present an opportunity for the country’s political parties to demonstrate their commitment to democracy and development in a peaceful and credible manner, following a challenging political period.”
He said the observer mission comprised of seven eminent persons in the fields of politics, elections, media, conflict prevention and youth development, and was being supported by five Commonwealth secretariat staff members.
According to Mr Mogae the group had already met IEC officials, political parties and civil society organisations and was expecting to meet the diplomatic community and other observer groups.
He said their brief was to also assess the pre-election environment, polling day activities and the post-election period, “against the backdrop of Lesotho’s national legislation, its regional and international commitments”.
“We will perform our observation role with impartiality, independence and transparency,” said Mr Mogae.
“On Thursday 26 February, members of the group will be deployed to various provinces across the country to observe preparations ahead of polling day.
“On election day, they will observe opening, voting, closing, counting and the results management process.”
Following the holding of the elections, he said the group would issue an interim statement on its preliminary findings, with the final report also prepared before their expected departure on 7 March.
Mr Mogae also emphasised that the group was only in the country to observe the polls and would not influence how political parties handle the results.