Regional: Gender not an issue in the run up to the elections, Alliance elections observer in Lesotho says

Date: June 4, 2012
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The Southern Africa Gender Protocol Alliance played a key role in the Lesotho elections observer mission. Emma Kaliya who sits on the Alliance think tank and represents the Malawi Alliance focal network in her role as the Chair of the NGO Gender Coordinating Network was head of the civil society observer mission under the SADC Council of NGOs.

Kaliya lamented that gender did not seem to feature high on this election’s agenda. She said, “The thing that was very clear from the point of the observer mission was the whole issue of overshadowing of women representation because of their uncertaintyover which party would form the next Government. Getting more women in parliament was not considered as priority in the constituencies even during general discussions.”

Developments in Lesotho are disappointing in a country that has showed consistency in ensuring at least close to 50% women councillors are elected at the local government level. This takes the SADC region back two steps towards meeting the 5050 target in the SADC Gender Protocol that is set for 2015. The new local government Act and provides affirmative measures to increase women’s representation. The 2011 local government elections placed the country close to parity at 49.1% women in local government.

Political parties seemed preoccupied with who would form the next government therefore focussed on candidates that were likely to get them votes within constituencies rather than whether they were women or men.

BY way of background, Kaliya had also been part of the pre- election assessment mission that went to Lesotho in March 2012shortly after the Prime Minister had moved out of the then ruling party Lesotho Congress for Democracy to form the Democratic Congress. The Democratic Congress became the ruling party after receiving a majority made up of those that made it toparliament based on proportional representation seats.

This set the tone for the rest of the election campaign period. This sudden shift brought in a lot of uncertainty which pushed the issue of women representation in all parties to the back seat.

In the meantime it is not clear how many women made it to parliament. Hopes of increasing women’s representation are pinned on the zebra system for the 40 proportional representation seats. The Independent Electoral Commission of Lesotho is optimistic that this may increase the share of seats allocated to women. It can only be hoped that the parties agree on the sharing of these seats to avoid the experiencesfrom 2007 elections.


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