Shauna Mottiar, May 28, 2002
In the light of Lesotho's political history, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) is vital for ensuring that the election procedure is carried out in a fair and accountable fashion. The IEC describes its mission as one that delivers acceptable, free, fair, transparent and accessible elections to the Basotho nation.
Compounding this task is the fact that Lesotho has adopted a new electoral system. The first-past-the post (FPTP) system has been replaced with a mixed-member proportional (MMP) system. The MMP system combines FPTP with proportional representation. Notwithstanding its advantages, the MMP system is a complex one incorporating a two-ballot paper method. Owing to the fact that the Lesotho population is largely illiterate, the IEC has been tasked with the urgency of voter education. In collaboration with the UNDP a voter education program was launched that involved deploying teams to explain the new electoral system to people in the rural and urban areas (All Africa News 2002). The IEC also collaborated with the Lesotho Council of NGO's and the Transformation Resource Centre for the production of voter education instruction manuals and workshops. In spite of this however it was reported that on the day of voting, electoral officials had to explain how the system worked before voters could cast their votes (Chege, W, 2002).
In terms of the registration process, the IEC seems to have fared well. Registration ran from August 11 2001 to September 30 2001. 1 319 registration centers were opened, manned by 7 000 personnel. The IEC set a target of registering 900 000 people and this target was nearly reached as the official number of registered voters stands at 830 000 (IEC 2002). The registration campaign was quite extensive and included public gatherings around the country motivating people to register and vote. By most accounts the registration centers ran smoothly apart from a few instances were registration material ran out. The voters' role was published in three phases for inspection by the public. Each list detailed changes made to the roll such as deaths or people requesting transfers of registration to other centers. Voters in Embassies and High Commissions outside of Lesotho were also carefully catered for. They received election guidelines and were allowed to vote on May 13 2002. The entire registration and voting process is managed by IT company Arivia.Kom. The use of a computerized system of management generally ensures higher levels of security and speed.
The IEC's attempt at remaining accessible was also extended to the political parties and NGO's. In January 2002 a three-day consultative meeting was held which saw the IEC coming together with representatives of political parties and leaders of NGO's. The meeting dealt with the new electoral system and strategies of voter education.
As prescribed by the National Assembly Elections Amendment Act of 2001, the IEC has appointed an Electoral Tribunal. The Electoral Tribunal will adjudicate disputes related to the May 25 2002 election. It is comprised (in accordance with the legislation) of three independents - a professor of education and two lawyers, one of whom is female.
In terms of presence at the polling stations, over 900 IEC officials have been deployed at polling stations.
ALL AFRICA NEWS 2002 "Voter Education a Priority-UNDP", April 8.
CHEGE, W, 2002 "Lesotho Kingdom Votes and Hopes for a Fresh Start', Reuters, May 26.