What if parliamentarians refuse to go?
THOUGH it is a common practice that parliament adjourns sine die in preparation for dissolution, this time there are many issues raised in relation to that process.
Chief among these issues is whether members of National Assembly will shoot down the Motion of Adjournment in a bid to hold government to ransom for the settlement of the individual member loans.
The questions that people ask include, is it true that Members of Parliament (MPs) will refuse to go home unless government commits to pay off their loans, what are the implications of the rejection of the motion of adjournment, will that act prevent parliament from being dissolved and consequentially disrupt the planned early election which came as part of solution to the Lesotho’s political standoff?
Although this article may wish to choose the one on refusal of MPs to go home, perhaps the easiest yet the most interesting, readers and followers of this column have legitimate expectation to access its view on these other issues.
It is a common knowledge that this column and its sister column in the sister newspaper has opined strongly on how the conflict within the coalition could be alternatively addressed but among force, righteous and interest based approaches, political leadership chose the first one. It would also be a wise reminder that what has not worked and there should be blamed for the collapsed coalition is not the system but the actors.
Before it collapsed, the coalition has been operating so what brought things to the end, is mainly failure of the actors and may be stakeholders to some extent to handle the challenges maturely, patiently and in a more civilised political style. Lack of sophistication in holding coalition together benefited graciously from the blind following that Members of parliament has shown to their leaders. The potency that Members of Parliament are demonstrating now is one needed when civil society organisations were calling for the alternative approach to the issues, a trend they clearly said will not help the country. When Maseru Facilitation Declaration was passed, MPs could still not see engaging issues constructively to hold leaders accountable as priority, may be they still thought it would be a business as usual and renege against commitment once political dust and tension subside. When the issues highlighted above are raised at this eleventh hour of the life of the 8th parliament, those who engage in them should appreciate this background.
Assuming that the motion of adjournment is rejected or government is put at the corner and blackmailed by the MPs to concede to the demands that government pays off the loans that MPs legitimately expected to service in five years, should government give in? If finally the motion is not passed, will that impact on the next elections?
Whether government should give in or not may not be the interest of this article except to say that serving one’s nation as a politician is a commitment that can be as highly rewarding as how risky it can be. Once, politicians seek to use their power to reduce the risk while on the other hand great big opportunities and fat benefits they risk being labelled greedy, unprincipled and may be corrupt.
There are about four ways through which parliament closes and it is very critical for those who want to engage in this debate to appreciate. Parliament closes it business for main breaks and this is normally winter break and festive season recess and the time to resume is not stipulated. It can also go for short break to attend to certain specific matters such as attending work- shops, participating in the commemoration of World AIDS Day or celebrating Independence Day with His Majesty and the people in environmental activities but here the specific time for its adjournment is specified.
For these two forms of break, the Leaders of the House or a member of cabinet on his or her behalf moves a motion on adjournment. Since the question is put to determine the fate of the motion, it can either be passed or negative by the house. There are other two ways through which work of parliament can be stopped, prorogation and dissolution.
These ways are not subject to parliamentary debate as there is no motion needed for them. It is the function of the King acting on the advice of the Prime Minister and or the Council of State.
In the case of prorogation, the Prime Minister advices the King directly and there is no option for alternative advice as it could be with advisory on dissolution that comes as a result of the Premier’s lose on the vote of confidence.
In the circumstances that Prime Minister chooses to advice the King to dissolve parliament instead of resigning after losing confidence of parliament, the King may refuse if in His view Lesotho can still be effectively governed without dissolution and such dissolution is not in the interest of Lesotho.
However, the King can only do that acting on the advice of the Council of State.
In the current situation motion of adjournment sine die is rather a ritual that has to come first to be followed by the dissolution. Although this is a practice, there is no constitutional relation between adjournment in sine die and dissolution, the King can at any time prorogue or dissolve as long as He is so advised.
This means that whether parliament passes or rejects the motion on adjournment, it does not matter but they will go home and back to the electors once it is dissolved.
For those who still expect to come back, it may be appear rude to the electors to refuse to go on claims that government has to pay for their loans.