Lesotho: Electoral Code of Conduct
Updated May 2006
A new Electoral Code of Conduct ("Code") was adopted in 2001 to replace the less detailed Code of 1992 (National Assembly Election (No 1) (Amendment) Act 2001, 42; National Assembly Election Order 1992, Schedule 4).
The Code is binding on all candidates and all registered political parties and infringements make the guilty party liable to a formal warning, a fine of up to M10 000, suspension of media access for a specified period or restrictions on campaign activities such as prohibitions on meetings, on entry to certain geographic areas or on literature distribution (National Assembly Election (No 1) (Amendment) Act 2001, 112M (1), (2)(a)).
Particular infringements by parties carry heavier penalties (National Assembly Election (No 1) (Amendment) Act 2001, 112M (2),(b)):
- Acts of violence, intimidation or gross violations of the rights of any political party, candidate or voter may lead to cancellation of registration with the IEC.
- Obtaining votes by fraud may lead to a reduction in the vote count of the party concerned.
- Prevention of another party from free and safe access may lead a party being excluded from particular voting stations.
Moreover individuals involved in acts of violence, intimidation or gross violations of the rights of any political party, candidate or voter may be disqualifies from standing as candidates (National Assembly Election (No 1) (Amendment) Act 2001, 112M (2),(c)).
Cases of infringement are prosecuted by the Director of Elections and fall under the jurisdiction of the High Court (National Assembly Election (No 1) (Amendment) Act 2001, 112N).
The Code lays down as its purpose, "to promote conditions that are conducive to free, fair and transparent elections" and to promote a climate of (section 1):
- tolerance free from coercion, intimidation, violence or reprisals;
- free campaigning and open debate;
- intolerance of bribery, vote-buying and patronage; and
- intolerance of character defamation and misinformation.
Commitment and compliance
Parties and candidates are expected not only to adhere to the Code, but to actively publicise it while conducting campaigns, to promote voter education and to develop a code of ethics in line with the Code (section 2). This public commitment involves the affirmation of the rights of participants to (sections 4(a), 3):
- express differing views;
- debate and contest each other's policies and programmes;
- canvass freely for membership and support;
- hold meetings, rallies and marches;
- attend meeting of others;
- distribute campaign literature and materials;
- publish notices and adverts; and
- promote free campaigning within the law.
Parties and candidates are expected to instruct all concerned, leadership, members and supporters to adhere to the Code (section 4(b)).
Undertakings and duties
To quell violence, intimidation, defamation and vote-buying candidates and registered parties must undertake to (section 5):
- Repeatedly condemn violence in public.
- Refrain from language that incites violence or intimidation.
- Refrain from carrying weapons at public political events.
- Abstain from plagiarising the insignia of other parties and discourage the removal, disfigurement or destruction of other parties' material.
- Abstain from offering material inducements to influence party membership, event attendance, voting decisions or candidacy nominations.
- Refrain from using social or institutional power for political purposes.
- Abstain from discrimination on grounds of race, sex, ethnicity, class, gender or religion.
Parties and candidates have a duty to ensure that they do not arrange public events to conflict with those of other parties, that they attend meetings to discuss enforcement and infringements of the Code and to abide by the decisions made iro the Code by the competent authorities (section 6).
Women, the media and the IEC
Parties and candidates are enjoined to promote the rights of women by facilitating women's equal political participation, ensuring their access to public meetings, respecting their rights to communicate with parties and respecting their rights to freedom of political action and conscience without being subject to coercion (section 7).
Parties and candidates are expected to respect the media, to permit free access by the media to public political events and to ensure that journalists are not harassed, intimidated or subjected to hazard, threats or assault (section 8).
Parties and candidates are expected to cooperate with the IEC by:
- Acknowledging the authority of the IEC and collectively owning the electoral process.
- Attending meetings and participate in them through representatives.
- Implementing its decisions.
- Facilitating IEC access to campaign events.
- Cooperating with IEC investigations.
- Ensuring the safety of its officials.
- Reassuring voters of its impartiality, of the integrity of the ballot and the secrecy of the vote.
- Disciplining and restraining members from infringing the Code or the electoral law.
- Maintaining contact with all other parties at every level, including the exchange of relevant contact details.
Parties and candidates must pledge to accept the final outcome of the elections as certified by the IEC and to ensure that others do so (section 10).
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION ORDER 1992, Military Council and Council of Ministers of Lesotho.
NATIONAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION (No 1) (AMENDMENT) ACT 2001, Lesotho Government Gazette Extraordinary, 46(105), 31 December.