Is the parly motion for elections or not?
THOUGH the humble submission of the leader of the house, chairperson of business committee, the deputy prime minister, signatory to the Maseru Facilitation Declaration and the Leader of LCD to suspend the otherwise highly politically charged debate over the controversial motion averted potential protracted tension, and that parliamentary wisdom to establish an inter-party leadership structure have brought tranquillity to the august house, there are still more questions than answers around the motion.
Two of such questions which this article seeks to engage are whether MPS want elections or not and what would be the effect of the motion if it is pursued to its logical conclusion?
Though many, including SADC and MPS, did not find wisdom in the analysis, civil society and other progressive platforms that neither change of guard nor dissolution of parliament as contemplated by government and opposition sides would be for the benefit of Basotho, it would now seem that the early election option that leaders chose does not enjoy full support.
The analysis emphasised that Lesotho needs constitutional, political and other governance reforms to ensure that the constitutional architecture accommodates the full potentialities of Mixed Member Proportional System. However politicians were taken up by the naïve goals of becoming heroes by clamping one another, one thought that the conflict would be resolved by him becoming a victor over the loser. Now that it is becoming clear that situation has degenerated to the level where dissolution is evident, MPS may want to change the situation.
What is also true however is that none of the political parties and MPS is courageous enough to say does not want elections? Each one of them wants to appear to the nation as ready for election while it is the other who is not willing. Though none would want to be seen as unwilling to go for early elections, they know and appreciate that they would be beneficiaries if the plan flops. At the personal level MPS have commitments including personal loans which they may not be able to settle if parliament dissolves earlier than an- ticipated and they are not able to come back after elections.
Whether government should take over the MPS’ loans or not would be an issue for another article but the reality is that the political contest playing out within the confines of the constitution of Lesotho ends in a way that benefits no one side over the other as has been meticulously forecasted by this column and other progressive platforms.
Understandably MPS would use their energy to undermine Maseru Facilitation Declaration though tactfully and in a manner that they are not seen by the public as doing so. The next logical question is whether the controversial motion in parliament was part of the bigger scheme of things to upset the early election route or not?
The motion seeks to get permission from the National Assembly for the two members namely Hon Malebo of MFP and Hon Mathaba of NIP to introduce a Bill that amends the constitution by abolishing prorogation and rearranging the King’s advisory on the dissolution of parliament in a manner that such comes from the Council of State and not the prime minister as is the case currently. If this motion is passed by the House, then the two MPS would be allowed to introduce that constitutional amendment Bill.
The prorogation and King’s advisory on the dissolution are contained in Section 83 of the constitution. Section 83(1) up to (5) of the Constitution provide that the King may at any time prorogue or dissolve parliament as advised by the Prime Minister. Though the King may at some time refuse the advice to dissolve particularly if in his view the country and its people do not need dissolution and the Kingdom can still be governed without it, he could only do that on the advice of the Council of State. This is the Section which holds the democratic change of government. Through Section 85 (1) the constitution empowers parliament to amend the constitution.
This means that after passing in the house the motion would then lead to the introduction of the Bill that seeks to amend Section 83. The Section 85(3) groups sections of the constitution into A and B. The constitutional amendment Bill that seeks to change section in group A only needs two thirds majority support in both houses of parliament while those listed in group B should have similar support and then be subjected to the referendum. Read to its full provision, this subsection provides that such a referendum cannot take place earlier than two months or later six months after passage of the Bill in Senate. Upon the positive outcome of the plebiscite, the Bill can then be presented to the King for assent to become effective part of the constitution.
Considering that the successful completion of the intentions of this motion cannot realistically be done in less than six months while Maseru Facilitation Declaration envisages early elections in February 2015, the two cannot be compatible. Whether the intention of the motion is to systematically and strategically undermine the declaration to which the two movers of motion are signatory is beyond the scope of this article but reader is surely empowered to make own judgment. However what brings hope in the whole situation is that there is an Interparty Leadership Structure in parliament dealing with this matter.
Though leaders committed to early elections through Maseru Facilitation Declaration, it is not clear whether they really mean it. They would need to agree on their intention to defer the declaration and dully communicate with SADC counterparts. This however would be a fruit of genuine political dialogue that addresses fallout between two of the three leaders of coalition and the intricacies of operationalising coalition government, the very core issues raised by civil society but ignored if not rejected the builders.