Who will rule after Saturday?
WHEN the date for the 28 February 2015 elections was announced, acres of media space were covered in dissecting the issue. This special article on elections is one such example.
Such issues as the historical perspective of elections, the processes and procedures and many others are examples of what has been covered. Though many questions were asked and responded to, others still linger.
The optimism on the one hand and pessimism expressed on the other about the holding of elections in 2015, have not only defined the manner in which most people view them, but also inform the way they interact with the process.
The erstwhile coalition government partners have accused each another of bringing about the administration’s end, and that has been their campaign message. However, what has been conspicuously missing in this debate is the discussion on the possible outcomes in a manner that goes beyond personal attachments and sentiments.
Though scenario building or analysis is considered one of the most interesting subjects within political science, it is among the least preferred branches of study. Yet, it is the most relevant and what ordinary citizens in general and voters in particular want to hear from political scientists.
The pressing question for those interested in how the parties will fare is who will lead the next government? While it may not be realistic to attempt to respond to this question, this article shares some possible outcomes and builds scenarios out of the Saturday polls.
To recap, it would be interesting to look at how parties shared spoils in the 2012 national Assembly Elections. Of the total number of 551 726 people who voted, the Democratic Congress (DC) which was the most voted single political party in the previous elections got 218 366, which makes up 39 percent of the total vote, and this was translated into 48 seats in parliament, a direct win in 41 constituencies and 7 additional proportional compensatory seats which was 40 percent share of the total 120 seats of national Assembly.
The DC did not make it into government because the All Basotho Convention (ABC), which got 138 917 votes, 26 constituencies and four PR seats, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) elected by 121 076 got 12 constituencies and 14 PR seats and Basotho national Party (BNP) which got 23 788 and five PR seats coalesced and met the minimum requirement to form government which is 61 seats.
The other political parties collectively got 12 366 votes. For the purposes of further analysis, it would be critical to note that constituency performance for the parties is extremely important.
Though in times past, a constituency win would have be the sole determination of a party’s performance, the advent of mixed member proportional (MMP) system and its refinery to abolish the second ballot which basically distorted the model, with the best loser in a constituency dearly compensated.
In fact, the LCD got 14 compensatory seats which surpassed the 12 constituencies by two. This is due to the fact that in the constituency where it did not win, the LCD did well as both runner up and the third position holder.
Constituencies are generally highly contested. What is observable is that only 22 constituencies out of 80 were won on majority votes, the rest were won on minority vote. This means a very diverse voting population and the diminishing single party dominance in various geographic areas.
The DC remained markedly strong in the southern and mountainous areas while in central Maseru and the northern part, it had a hard time.
However, it would seem that some constituencies will be hard-fought in the lowlands and the ABC, and to some extent BNP and LCD may, put up a good fight in the mountains.
As the 2015 elections loom ever closer, the begging question becomes who the likely winner will be. Given the contest among the parties, the campaign programme and issues advanced, it is likely to have voters divided on who is responsible for the coalition government’s collapse among others the issues.
Who among the coalition leaders is the most favourite? This may have nothing to do with whether the response of voters is factual or not. The other issue is the general exposition of parties in their campaigns.
In these elections, the ABC has been active more than was the case in 2012. Whether such activism has actually translated into the growth of the party in terms of numbers of people who will vote it, may not be clearly ascertained except to say that its star rally was far better attended than any other party and was, for all intends purposes, better than its 2012 show.
The DC has not been as active as it used to be and its star rally has been lower than 2012. However, this may not have a single definition. It may either mean general fatigue in the party propaganda mechanism, a general degeneration disease that affects parties which lose incumbency and consequently opportunities to abuse state resources for party activism, a benefit that this time went to the ABC, LCD and BNP.
The decline which surely draws heavily from the reality that many of the DC bigwigs and campaign champs went to the rally on foot for the first time since the return to democracy in 1993, could not necessarily mean decline in membership and loyalty.
It may mean actual decline. Taking the effect of the exposure of strength in the star rallies and these other issues in to consideration, the ABC and DC would certainly put a very interesting fight in this poll.
The growth of the BNP and the relative strength of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho, threaten the position of the LCD as the kingmaker. The LCD star rally did not reflect the strength it has shown in the various rallies it held around the country.
The star rally was also lower than the one they held in 2012 which was a statement to the LCD’S former leader, Pakalitha Mosisili, that the party still exists after his departure.
While the LCD comes into the 2015 fray saddled with another split, this time the magnitude of the wound may not be so profound to warrant the showpiece similar to 2012.
This again may not necessarily mean a decline in membership and people may end up voting for it. While these issues are realistic and indeed very significant in the constituencies majority of which were previously won on minority vote, the exhibition of party strength through rallies and the party performances at the star rallies in particular can only be ignored at one’s peril.
Ordinarily it would be expected that the Bnp’s growth would suggest the decline of the ABC but a parallel show of strength may give credit to the BNP leadership for being able to revive the dormant party’s loyalists.
The resistance of the DC while out of government would ordinarily be looked as a result of the party being perceived as haven by disgruntled LCD members.
On the basis of this, it would be possible to have one of the following three scenarios. The first being the Sharing the Spoils (Scenario Bana Ba motho ba arolelana hlooana ea tsie, mong a bolaea mong a tšoaela).
This is where the DC gets more seats but needs the LCD to form government or ABC gets more seats and need the BNP and RCL to form government. In the event that both alliances are not able to meet the target, the second scenario is possible which is Minnows being Kingmakers ( Ha ho tume li melala ntšonyane, nketjoane o tumme a se na noka).
This is where both sides would need support of the smaller parties to get to government. In such circumstances, the smaller parties would be inclined to up the stakes to maximise the opportunities.
The tougher it becomes to co-opt the smaller parties; the third scenario would be possible which is Burry the Hatchets and Make Peace ( Hlabang Chitjana Molato o fele o felle ruri). This is where both the DC and ABC may find their alliance cheaper than any other as long as issues between them are resolved.
However, there could be possibility that PFD can come back stronger and therefore more strategic than it was in 2012 and distort any of the defined scenarios here.
Though the LCD’S position seems to be fixed in the scenarios, its a possibility that Mr Metsing may be pressurised from within to reconsider his position against ABC leader Thomas Thabane on the one hand while the premier may be similarly persuaded to cut a deal with the former. This should not be ruled out.
Since expectations would be high and many people would be tempted to make own projections and calculations as the counting and announcement is made, it would be crucial to recall the seats allocation formula.
It is the total number of votes divided by the total number of seats successfully contested which will provide a quota. A total number of votes for a particular party are divided by the quota to determine how many seats it deserves.
If that number is bigger than number of constituencies the party got, then such a difference would be taken from the 40 PR seats.