Is the parly mo­tion for elec­tions or not?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea Shale

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.

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