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Political tensions rise

The possibility of Lesotho holding elections this year seem to be receding as disagreements over the electoral model send political temperatures soaring, Interim Political Authority (IPA) officials said.

Lekhetho Rakuoane, the co-chairman of the IPA told IRIN on Wednesday: “The IPA’s December agreeement on a new election model for Lesotho is being undermined by the government which seems to be reneging on the decision.”

According to Rakuoane, the IPA, composed of representatives of all political parties including the ruling Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD), agreed on a three-pronged Constitution Amendment Bill to be recommended to parliament.

The amendments provided for the establishment of a mixed member electoral system, whereby the current 80-member parliament would be increased to 130 members through a mixture of a constituency and proportional representation electoral system. The other aspects of the amendment relate to the appointment of a new electoral commission and the provision for the conduct of general elections.

Rakuoane said parliament seems to have been misled by the LCD representatives in the IPA. The 80-member parliament, 79 of whom belong to the LCD, last month rejected the IPA-approved mixed member electoral model, and resolved instead that a referendum be held on the proposed amendments.

Rakuoane said parliament’s decision has created political tensions in the country, which might lead to the collapse of the IPA. “It is highly unlikely that elections will be held this year because of the disagreement on the electoral model. We are likely to experience political instability if elections are not held soon,” added Rakuoane.

In one of the many cases of disagreements in the IPA, the three-member Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) resigned in January following pressure from the opposition parties. A former IEC commissioner told IRIN on Wednesday that the commissioners offered to resign “for the sake of peace and the love of our country”.

Rakuoane confirmed that opposition parties in the IPA raised objections about the impartiality of the three ex-commissioners. “The IPA decided to retire the three commissioners, and a new commission will be appointed in a week.”

The IPA’s tenure since October 1998 has been dogged by disagreements among its participants, a grouping of disparate and sworn political adversaries. The main parties in the IPA are the ruling LCD, the opposition Basotho National Party (BNP), the Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP) and eight other “smaller” parties.

The IPA was established as a compromise body to prevent the country from descending into chaos after opposition parties disputed the 1998 election results and embarked on a month-long protest action outside the parliamentary and royal buildings. The agreement was sponsored and guaranteed by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) following an armed intervention by South Africa and Botswana.

The IPA’s main brief was to create conditions that would enable the holding of new elections within 18 months of its establishment, a deadline that has come and gone with no election date scheduled. The wrangling within the IPA has led to constant mediation by multilateral organisations such as the United Nations, SADC and the Commonwealth.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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