Basotho voters unhappy with democratic system

LITEBOHO MOLEKO

Maseru – Two months to the general elections, studies by Advision reveal that Basotho are dissatisfied with the current democratic system in the country. This was revealed by Director of Advision Lesotho, Libuseng Malephane at the briefing held in partnership with Afrobarometer this week. Malephane said the new study, which was conducted earlier this year sampling 1,200 citizens, indicates that Basotho are approaching elections with pessimism while most citizens say the country is going in the wrong direction – citing poor economic conditions and increasing corruption.

She added that a majority of citizens do not trust their political leaders and are critical of the performance of the current prime minister, Members of Parliament and community/urban councillors. In addition, she said the support for democracy, elections and multiparty competition is weak, as more than seven in 10 citizens are dissatisfied with the way their democracy is working.

On the country’s leadership, a majority says they trust the King and traditional leaders and that they disapprove of the performance of the prime minister, Members of Parliament and their community/urban councillors. Dr Tlohang Letsie from the National University of Lesotho said the findings of the study are not surprising when it comes to Lesotho’s politics. He said that desperation gives hope to the unknown hence the nation trusts that the leadership of Kings and chiefs would be better than political governance.

He also specified that citizens should know that voting is not the end and that IEC should educate people more about voting and democracy. In response to the attitude towards democracy and politics, he said that indeed people do not understand what democracy is which is a serious issue especially now as the country is heading for elections. Speaking on behalf of IEC, Lydia Macheli said in the past IEC used to conduct surveys and educate people on democracy and politics but have not done so recently.

She also said the electorate does not understand what democracy is hence the decrease in voter turn-out although parties keep increasing on a daily basis. She said as a nation there’s still confusion as to whether they need a lot of parties or not. The results of the study show that people are saying IEC is not prepared for the coming elections and Macheli clarified that, it has been two years without leadership at IEC during which time there could have been reviews of some programmes to educate people about democracy and elections. Still on that note, concerning general elections on the way, the study reveals that Basotho are about evenly split as to whether they will vote in the upcoming general elections or not.

When it comes to identifying with political parties, more than half of Basotho say they do not feel close to any party while on the other hand 44% say they do. It also reveals that, in a question asked by Afrobarometer, “If general elections were held tomorrow, which party would you vote for,” half of the respondents declared a voting preference, some said they will not vote, while others did not know which party they would vote for and a small number refused to answer the question. Sofonea Shale from Development for Peace Education (DPE), said the study is significant but came out late because elections are close.

He said that the findings are very influential and that Advision should have a good working relationship with the government so that they present their findings with them. Some political parties were invited to the briefing and shared their views that, this study is vital and should be done early, especially before elections, so that they take into consideration what the nation is saying, particularly on politics, elections and democracy. They also made a plea that, more election parties should be invited to the briefing so that they hear what Basotho are saying about the kind of governance they wish for and how they will reach the point of satisfaction.

 

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