19 Nov 2001

Complex election bill

Lesotho's NGOs are lobbying against a complex election bill which they allege could deepen the country's political instability if passed by parliament.

The Elections Amendment Bill being debated introduces a "mixed member" system under which 80 MPs are to be elected under a first-past-the-post constituency-based system, with another 40 members to be elected on the basis of proportional representation. According to the bill, the allocation of seats for one party will be determined by dividing the total votes by 120 or any number of constituencies that successfully contested elections, including the 40 proportional representation seats, the Maseru newspaper Mopheme reported

Seabat Motsamai, the acting director of the Lesotho NGO Council, told IRIN that the two ballot papers needed for the mixed member system was confusing. "The level of voter education is not enough for people to grasp the need for two ticks."

He added that the complicated new electoral system proposed by both the Interim Political Authority and the Independent Electoral Commission was not the proportional representation the country's NGOs supported. "Literally what they (the authorities) are saying is to take the country as one constituency and see what support you have," rather than reserving 40 seats for proportional representation alone, based on the number of votes won by each party.

In 1998, under Lesotho's constituency-based electoral system, the ruling party won 60 percent of the votes cast, but 79 of the 80 seats. The electoral system was regarded as one of the chief culprits in the resulting political crisis in which the opposition challenged the election results, the army mutinied, and troops from South Africa and Botswana intervened.

While Motsamai said he did not envisage political violence on the scale of 1998, he told IRIN there would be confusion due to the complexity of the system, which could undermine the country's attempts at political reconciliation and national healing. Lesotho's general elections are expected in April/May 2002.(IRIN)


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