28 Feb 2002

Election date announced

The Kingdom of Lesotho will go to the polls on 25 May to elect a new national assembly of 120 members. Head of State, King Letsie III, ended months of speculation when he announced the general election date in the last week of February. As polling day was announced the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) unfolded a rolling programme of activities to finalise the remaining aspects of preparations for the general elections. "The biggest challenge is explaining the change in the electoral model to the rural constituencies. We don't have much time to do this. Also our resources are limited which means we have to employ creative strategies to get to those people. We are targeting the marginalised communities like the disabled and women in the voter education campaign," Seabata Motsamai, Exective Director of the Lesotho NGO Council told IRIN.

The IEC has the task of appointing and training election officials as well as embarking on an intense voter education. The IEC has also requested the assistance of the United Nations to coordinate international election observers and set up a secretariat.

Lesotho's last general elections were held in 1998, but the results were disputed by the opposition alliance of the three main opposition parties who alleged the polls were rigged. That led to widespread arson and looting of property in the capital, Maseru, and two outlying towns in the southern district, resulting in the request by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili for military intervention by the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to help restore law and order.

Some political analysts ascribe Lesotho's political problems to its first past the post (FPTP) electoral system. The 1998 electoral outcome was an overwhelming victory for Mosisili's Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). The LCD won 60.7 percent and the Basuto National Party 24.5 percent of the vote. However, owing to the FPTP electoral system the LCD took 79 seats and the BNP only one seat in parliament. During the upcoming election both the FPTP and proportional representation systems will be issued for elections to two separate legislative houses. (IRIN)

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