‘More parties mean more voter choices’

‘More parties mean more voter choices’

THERE has been a clamour by political parties to raise the quota for party registration from the current minimum of 500 to 5 000 members. This comes in the wake of concerns by Basotho over the mushrooming of political parties in Lesotho. The thinking is that the IEC benchmarks for party registration are too low making it easy for parties to register.
Last week, thepost’s Rose Moremoholo spoke to the IEC’s deputy director of elections, Mphasa Mokhochane, on these and other matters.

In light of the mushrooming of political parties is it not time for the IEC to increase the minimum threshold required for a new political party to be registered with the IEC?

A political party may apply for registration with the electoral commission if it has a paid-up membership of at least 500 people. The discussions we had recently with political parties is that they had proposed that a threshold for registration be increased to 5 000.

But all the same these are randomly selected figures with no basis at all. A scientific approach on the registration of a political party would be that it should be based on a quota of votes for a seat in parliament. The approach would be comparing the strength of a political party with a single seat in parliament.

Are there any legal or democratic principles that will be broken if the quota is raised?
Each and every country has its own legislation to determine the quota for registration and there will be no violation of any standards if the law is amended to propose a new and more scientifically agreed quota for registering a political party.

Who makes the decision on the requirement of political parties to register with the IEC?
The IEC’s vision statement states: “working towards a strong participatory and democratic electoral process”. In order to achieve its vision, the IEC has involved the participation of stakeholders within its consultative committee structures, to make suggestions on any piece of legislation to be introduced or amended. Finally, parliament will amend the law as presented.

Is the ever increasing number of political parties in Lesotho not a matter of concern to the IEC?

Political parties register with the electoral commission for the purpose of contesting either national or local elections.
So if the number of parties contesting in elections increases then that is a good sign (that people are participating) in an electoral process.
I do not think it is wrong if the number of taxis operating on our roads increase but that will be an improvement to the transport of commuters.
Similarly, more registered political parties widen the scope for a voter when electing a political party. It would be wrong to limit the scope from which voters have to choose their candidates or political parties to say three or five political parties.

What would be the determining factor for limiting the scope to a certain number as an appropriate number of political parties? What would be the determining factor for limiting the scope to a certain number as an appropriate number of political parties to be registered with IEC?

How much is the IEC paying to a party for campaigns during a general election?

Campaign funding is determined on the basis of election results from the previous general election.  Campaign funding for the 2012 general elections was calculated from the 2007 general elections and the 2015 general elections campaign funding was based on the 2012 general elections.  Campaign funding is divided into two parts, namely an equity share, equivalent to 20 percent and an amount proportional to the votes a political party garnered from the previous general elections.
A political party gets an amount proportional to the votes it got in that general election.

How much has the IEC paid to political parties to campaign for general elections in the past three successive elections?

In the two past general elections an amount of M4 million had been allocated for campaign funding. This amount is shared among political parties.
How many parties have registered with the IEC?
Just for the month of January 2017, the IEC has managed to register two political parties. This brings the total number of registered parties to 26.

How many are not participating in the elections although they are registered?
In the run to the 2015 general elections there were 24 registered political parties but only 23 took part in those elections, with the exception of Sankatana Social Democracy (SSD).

How many parties have been deregistered with IEC and what were the reasons?
The following six political parties were deregistered in 2012: United Party, Social Democratic Party, New Lesotho Freedom Party, Sefate Democratic Congress, Kopanang Basotho Party, Lesotho Education Party and National Progressive Party.

The electoral commission may cancel the registration of a political party if the political party ceases to exist or no longer functions or if the political party does not follow its registration requirements like holding general elective conferences.

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