Sadc team meets political players today

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MASERU — A Southern African Development Community (Sadc) team will today meet with Lesotho political parties to discuss electoral reforms ahead of general elections next year.

The team was supposed to conduct consultations with Lesotho political players yesterday but the meeting was postponed to today.

The closed meeting has been scheduled for this morning at UN House in Maseru.

Lesotho Workers Party (LWP) deputy leader Sello Maphalla confirmed to the Lesotho Times yesterday that the meeting would be held today.

Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) officials who have been mediating between the government and opposition parties last night refused to comment saying they had not “consulted with relevant stakeholders”.

The Sadc team for politics, defence and security is particularly eager to finalise the reforms to avoid a repeat of post-election disputes that have rocked most of Lesotho’s elections.

The ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party, opposition parties and chief mediators the CCL are set to present a report on what has been achieved since February 2010, amid indications of slow progress in finalising the roadmap.

The troika which was previously made up of Mozambican President Armando Guebuza, Swaziland’s King Mswati III and Zambia’s Defence Minister Dr Kalombo Mwanza was last in Lesotho in February last year.

The roadmap included, among other issues, the time-frame to review the constitution as well as the electoral laws.

Churches were roped in after the original mediator former Botswana president Sir Ketumile Masire abandoned the mediation process in July 2009 after accusing the government of failing to co-operate.

Parliament has since early this year been working on the National Assembly Electoral Bill 2011 to repeal the National Assembly Elections Act 1992.

The Bill contains a raft of electoral law reforms.

The parties are also working on constitutional reforms.

But there has been very little progress on other contentious issues such as the allocation of proportional representation seats and the position and mandate of the official leader of the opposition in the National Assembly.

The government and opposition parties have been locked in a bitter stand-off since 2007 over the allocation of proportional representation seats in parliament.

One of the items featuring prominently on both the constitution and electoral laws debate is the provision for political parties contesting elections to have the right to petition the High Court with regard to the allocation of proportional presentation seats.

This is meant to avoid cases such as the one lodged in the High Court of Lesotho by the Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) over the allocation of PR seats in the National Assembly after the 2008 election.

The party argued that the Independent Electoral Commission had wrongly allocated the seats.

The High Court however ruled that the MFP had no locus standi to bring the case before the courts and dismissed it.    

The draft law is currently in the Senate for further amendments and approval after it was passed by the National Assembly a fortnight ago.

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