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No election date in sight

Lesotho is still struggling to recover from the dramatic events of last year when political upheaval and ensuing riots over controversial election results nearly destroyed the capital Maseru, analysts say.

Fresh polls are supposed to take place next year as part of a political agreement, but the multiparty Lesotho Interim Political Authority (IPA) established following last September’s violence to prepare the country for the elections has moved painfully slowly and has 11 months to go before it hits a legal deadline.

A political analyst told IRIN that initially the two likely dates for elections were May or June next year: “These dates now almost seem impossible. How is the IPA expected to agree on a date, when they can’t agree on practically anything?”

Decisions within the IPA are supposed to be taken through consensus. “But nobody within the IPA can quite agree on what this means,” the analyst said. With all political parties represented on the IPA, the authority is supposed to make crucial resolutions on the kind of electoral process and political structure for the country.

However without a definite date, practically the entire IPA work schedule becomes impossible. Electoral and voter education campaigns were supposed to begin in August and end in March next year. But one official said: “How are we supposed to prepare for these campaigns when we have no idea on what to educate people.

“We can’t tell them how to vote because we don’t know the process or even the political structure that will eventually come into being.” She added:

“When you are going out at telling people about voting, its only naturally that they want to know what they are voting for.”

The delay in setting a date would also mean that voter registration may not be able to take place from September to December this year as was originally planned. And with most of the electorate living in isolated regions, this could prove to be one of the biggest stumbling blocks in preparation for the next general elections.

A political observer noted that the IPA was “highly understaffed and there were too few people doing too much.” The lack of financial resources is also a problem, with concerns that those constraints could prevent the IPA from properly fulfilling its mandate, the observer added.

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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