MASERU- With the number of new political parties increasing on a daily basis, the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and the public at large seem worried over the new political parties that are coming up.
According to the IEC the numbers of new emerging parties has been increasing so much that for this year only, five new parties have registered with them, adding to the 24 that the country already had in the last general elections of 2015. The new parties are Alliance for Democrats (AD), Basotho Thabeng ea Senai, Movement for Economic Change (MEC), Democratic Party of Lesotho (DPL) and True Reconciliation Unity (TRU).
Speaking to IEC officials recently, Deputy Director of Elections, Mphasa Mokhochane, said the law does stipulate the deadline for closing of the registration of new political parties but hinted that the IEC has realized that the registration of new parties takes a lot of their time, especially when the date of election has already been set.
He, however, said the nomination date is the only one that determines whether the party will be in for elections or not and if such a party does not submit the nomination forms on the stipulated time it will be out of the race.
He then disclosed that on March 31 2017 the IEC decided to suspend registration of all parties as the date of elections, which is June 3, had been announced.
“Usually after the election date has been set, we see a rush and many new emerging parties come in to register for the elections,” Mokhochane said.
He said the rush in registering the new parties that comes during the time of elections affects their work in such a way that when the elections date has been set all their attention will be focused towards the preparation of the elections.
“We would like government to craft a law for registration of the new parties so that there will be a time for opening and closing of registering of the parties so that when the date has been set for the elections anyone who misses the deadline would not be allowed to register,” he indicated.
He added that in a proposer democracy there is no limit to the number of parties a country can register and the IEC also does not have such laws. Their only mandate is to register any party that meets their registration requirements.
Mokhochane said in all registered parties, IEC has the responsibility to make sure that all the parties are not only registering for elections but they have to see that the parties do exist all the time and they can only do that by frequently visiting their offices or headquarters.
He disclosed that during their last visit to the parties, IEC officials got some shocking revelations whereby some of them no longer had physical addresses or offices to work from. Some of them he said, had indicated that they had run out of funds to pay rentals for their offices.
He added that some of the parties they visited they no longer had even their own furniture and most of all, there were no financial reports or even paper work of what the party was doing.
“In some of the offices we found that the party has not been meeting for almost six or more months and they did not even have minutes of the last meeting, it was really a disaster,” a worried Mokhochane said
Asked how much will be spent on the parties for in the election budget the deputy director said the IEC election budget was not affected very much as the budget still remains the same for all the other years - which is M4 million for campaign funding.
He said parties which participated in the last 2015 elections will share the money proportionally as per the number of total votes they got in the said elections. For parties that registered after those elections, the 500 members required during their registration process with the IEC will be regarded as their votes and they will be allocated money as per the number of people registered.
He said in the last elections they experienced problems with parties that did not account for all the money they got from IEC which includes money for agents which they also get from IEC. He further said the IEC was also still waiting for parties that have not accounted for the last campaign’s funding and agents’ payment to come and explain to them. He said it was the IEC’s principle that parties that do not account for the funds they get from IEC will not additional funds until they do so.
Members of the public are also worried that some of the new parties are ‘fly-by-night’ organisations that are only visible during election time. Some of the new parties came out of existing political players while others are completely new. Some say they do not understand why the people would want to form new parties after having had disputes in their original parties.
Asked for their opinion, many people on the streets of Maseru said both IEC and the government should reconsider the number of parties that the country should have so as to get rid of the new parties that emerge only during election time and disappear soon afterwards.
However, in interviews with representatives of some of the new parties that have registered with IEC this year it seems they are all here to stay – at least for now.
Leader of True Reconciliation Unity (TRU) party, Tlali Khasu, said the reason he had formed a new party instead of joining the other existing parties is because he and his followers do not believe in the ideology that those parties have and they believe that their party will bring a difference to the politics of Lesotho.
Asked if he had formed the party only for the June 3 elections, Khasu said he has formed the party even before the election day was announced and that he was leaving his former party due to some misunderstanding.
“We are not very much looking into this elections but they are going to help us to have exposure as our party is still new,” Khasu said as he implied that they did not know that elections will be held very soon as they were still building their party.
“After this elections our party is going to be represented in parliament, even if it will be through proportional representation, we are going to be in parliament and we are also going to win five constituencies,” Khasu said with prudence.
During certification with the IEC, leader of Democratic Party of Lesotho, Limpho Tau, said his party has been built from the community not in parliament and that guarantees that they would win the elections even though they did not think that the elections “will come very soon” as they were preparing for 2020 elections.
He said they registered with law office in May but when the date for elections was announced they worked very hard to register with IEC so that in these elections they would get the exposure that they need for the nation to trust them.
Tau promised to work very hard to win the elections even though he did not mention the number of constituencies they are hoping to win.