Call to up the threshold for party registration

Call to up the threshold for party registration

MASERU – THE upsurge in the number of political parties has triggered calls for the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) to increase the threshold of supporters required to register a party.
There is now a suggestion that the threshold be raised from the current 500 to 5 000, to reduce the proliferation of political parties some of which have no prospects of making a dent on the political landscape.

According to the IEC the suggestion came from some political parties. Although the political parties are driven by self-interest it could be said that they are merely reflecting a concern that seems to be shared by a lot of people who believe Lesotho has too many political parties for a country of 2 million people.  The formation of Monyane Moleleki’s Alliance of Democrats (AD), Selibe Mochoboroane’s Movement for Economic Change (MEC) and Tlali Khasu’s Truth and Reconciliation Union (TRU) has brought the number of registered political parties to 26.

The IEC is yet to seriously consider the proposals but there are indications that it is prepared for a dialogue if the proposed 5 000 figure is based on some scientific assessment.
The IEC’s Deputy Director of Elections, Mphasa Mokhochane, says these are “randomly selected figures with no basis at all”.  Mokhochane says a scientific approach on the registration of a political party should be based on a quota of votes for a seat in parliament.

“This approach would be comparing the strength of a political party applying for registration with the strength of a political party with a single seat in parliament,” Mokhochane said.
Based on 2015 proportional representation seats allocation, only seven parties out of 23 that participated in elections got over 5 000 votes.

Some parties have however warned the IEC to tread carefully on the issue because there are “legal and political complexities” to be considered. Thabang Nyeoe, leader of Basotho Democratic National Party (BDNP) which got only 1 901 votes in 2015 polls, said although he has not been to meetings where the issue has been discussed it is important for the IEC to avoid being hasty.

The suggestion, Nyeoe said, should be thoroughly discussed because it might affect a lot of people.
“We have a law committee that works directly with the IEC and they are the ones who can say how it will work for us or against us,” Nyeoe said.
“This is a very sensitive issue and (many people) may lose if not handled well”.

“What is important is that IEC should monitor parties that do not obtain 500 votes during elections. Right now I am not very sure that (some) registered parties that participated in elections of 2015 that received less than 500 votes were questioned.”

Nyeoe wants the IEC to question parties that are voted for by people less than those it registered instead of raising the quota to join the elections race.
Mohau Thakaso, leader of the Whitehorse Party which got 174 votes, said they do not have a problem with the quota being increased but IEC has a problem with verifying the numbers as given by the parties.

Jeremane Ramathebane, leader of Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) which got 1 285 votes, argued that “it is only lawful to have at least 500 members”.
“Who are we to change the law by increasing the number of membership? It is law that directs us to have 500 and I will not comment much on the issue,” Ramathebane said.
The AD deputy leader, Mokhele Moletsane, said although his party is only new in the race and has not been in any of the meetings between parties and the IEC, he understands that this issue needs to be discussed further.

“However, if the issue is raised again, we will have to talk about it as a party,” Moletsane said.
“We understand that the electoral law says we should have 500 members to merit registration. It needs extensive discussions,” he said.

Rose Moremoholo

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