The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) of Lesotho says a cross section of citizens will participate in planned advance voting on Saturday ahead of the February 28 general election.
Lesotho’s electoral law stipulates that security forces, nurses, media houses, embassy officials and officers from the electoral commission who will be on duty on election day, are permitted to vote ahead of a scheduled general election.
Tuoe Hantsi, spokesman for the electoral body, says the IEC is ready to administer a transparent and credible election.
“The [IEC] is so ready. All is in place. The materials have been sent to the stations where the voting is going to take place. The main one on the 28th,” said Hantsi. “The politicians all stakeholders are now together and would see to it that we are having a successful election on the 28th.”
Sharp disagreement between rival groups in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s government led to an attempt to overthrow the administration. Analysts say tension in the government spilled over into the security agencies after the police and the military reportedly supported rival groups in the administration.
Basotho, as Lesotho citizens are called, have expressed concern that the prevailing political tension could create violence between rival supporters which they say could scare prospective voters and undermine the credibility of the election.
Hantsi admits the prevailing tension would not be good for the election.
“The tension between the security [groups] basically I can’t say it will be as calm as ever. But, we hope things would be sorted [out] then. It’s not as bad as one is saying, but it’s never been like this before,” he said.
He said the IEC will continue with its close collaboration with security agencies to ensure the election is peaceful despite the existing tension.
“All the security agencies, we are working together 100 percent. Now we are making arrangements and our electoral meetings with armed forces so that they can help with the helicopters transporting all with their aircraft since we have some areas that are not accessible with any form of transportation except by air so, all is in order,” Hantsi said.
“The ballot papers and all [sensitive] materials as well as voting stations will be guarded by the police forces,” he added.
Hantsi said rival political parties have been cooperating with the electoral commission in the run up to the election following a meeting with the IEC about the readiness of the electoral body to organize the election.
The election was brought forward after a sharp disagreement in Thabane’s coalition government. An agreement signed between the rival groups in the government mediated by South Africa’s deputy president, Cyril Ramaphosa, led to the re-scheduling of the election.