TRC weighs in on delimitation review


TRC director Tsikoane Peshoane

Believes IEC is capable to deliver within remaining period to October polls


MASERU – Rights group Transformation Resource Centre (TRC), says following the court order to review delimitation of 20 of the country’s 80 constituencies by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), stakeholders should intensify voter education. This, the TRC says, should be taken up as stakeholders’ responsibility, with or without IEC’s financial assistance. One of the salient components to be emphasised is the new constituency boundaries and the pressing need for voters to check their names expeditiously and carefully upon publication of the voter’s names at the IEC centres across the country.

The High Court of Lesotho last week ruled against the IEC’s announcement of new constituency boundaries earlier this year, handing down judgment in a challenge instituted to nullify gazetting of the new boundaries by the Democratic Congress (DC) and Movement for Economic Change leader, Selibe Mochoboroane.

The court’s decision led to some political parties, including the DC, announcing that they will stick to the old constituency delimitation boundaries marked in 2010 until the IEC has reviewed the 20 constituencies as directed by the high court. In his judgment Justice Realeboha Mathaba ordered the review of the following constituencies: Mechachane, Peka, Mphosong, Tsikoane, Kolonyama, Tšoana-Makhulo, Phoqoane, Matelile, Mohale’s Hoek, Hloahloeng, Phamong, Moyeni, Mt Moorosi, Qhoali, Qacha’s Nek, Lebakeng, Tsoelike, Mantšonyane, Thaba-Moea, Bobatsi.

Mochoboroane and the DC had approached court arguing that IEC failed to comply with Section 67(2) of the Constitution of Lesotho as it has made wide variations between constituencies in the same district and thereby failed in its obligation to contribute equally the voter numbers in each district and between overlapping administrative districts. TRC believes this can be done and elections can be conducted as scheduled, and appeals that all stakeholders, be it political parties, civil society organisations, the media, and everyone else have a civic responsibility to assist IEC in this regard.

IEC has published the election calendar pursuant to Section 37 of the National Assembly Electoral Act 2 of 011, outlining a series of activities to be undertaken ahead of the election, the TRC observes, putting out the opinion that the order that IEC has to take corrective measures in respect of the 20 constituencies appearing in the Delimitation Order, Legal Notice No 37 of 2022 has serious implications to the electorate. “Considering the Legal Notice in question, there is confusion in terms of the constituency’s boundaries. The electorate is aware of the boundaries published in the set aside Legal Notice, wherein they belonged to certain and or one of the 20 ‘non-complied’ constituencies.

“In this manner, it remains a matter of interest for the electorate to know whether or not the redelimitation is going to affect the constituency to which they belong. “The sooner corrective measures are taken, the better for the electorate to be aware of the possible new constituency boundaries for some of them, well in time, to enable them to exercise their right to participation,’’ the centre argues. The rights body adds that it does not doubt the competence of the IEC to implement the court decision given the readily available data.

But points out that it is a matter of general knowledge that the electoral management body has successfully completed delimitation exercise and therefore has the requisite experience and data to assist. For this reason, TRC recommends that IEC, in an attempt to comply with the order of the Constitutional Court, move swiftly to gazette the proposed delimitation in the provisional report -with minor adjustments if and when necessary – which indicated a delimitation that is constitutionally compliant, in so far as the court interpretation of the proviso to Section 67(2) is concerned.

IEC had argued in court that the applicants in the case were misinterpreting its obligation in that it distributes voter numbers per constituency and not by district, articulating that it does so using the template of voter population quota according to which each constituency voter number should not exceed it or fall short of it by more than 10 percent. The judgment by the high court further states that DC and Mochoboroane further contended that the IEC acted unreasonably by confining the boundaries of each constituency within the administrative boundaries of districts, thereby making it fail to observe the ten percent threshold provided in Section 67(2) of the Constitution.

The judgment further indicated that the applicants argued that Section 7(1) of the Constitution, which obligates the IEC to divide the country into eight constituencies for purposes of elections to the national assembly, makes no reference to administrative district boundaries being the geographical localities of the constituencies. The court, therefore, ordered the IEC to review boundaries of 20 constituencies, further stating that reviewing boundaries of constituencies the IEC is not bound to limit boundaries of such constituencies within the administrative boundaries of the districts.

Following the judgment the DC deputy leader, Motlalentoa Letsosa, stated that they agreed with the court that the 20 constituencies were marked against the constitution. He said even though a ruling has been made that the IEC reviews the delimitation of the 20 constituencies before poll day, October 7, the commission will not be able to do so without affecting other constituencies.

Meanwhile, the leader of HOPE, ’Machabana Letsie, said during a recent press conference that the IEC allowed itself to be misled by political parties, hence the mistake in alteration of constituencies. She said before the current IEC commissioners were appointed the commission had already altered constituencies as per the constitution and 2011 elections’ terms that all constituencies should be equal. The IEC has since published National Assembly Electoral Act, 2011 Constituency Delimitation(Amendment) Order of 2022, correcting delimitation in the 20 constituencies as ordered by the high court.

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