Back to ne­go­ti­at­ing a coali­tion govt

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea Shale

THE 2015 Na­tional As­sem­bly Elec­tions have come and gone but what re­mains is the chal­lenge of deal­ing with the ef­fects. Spec­u­la­tion on which coali­tion gov­ern­ment will lead Le­sotho and who, be­tween the two for­mer oc­cu­pants of State House re­turns, has now been cleared.

The DC-LCD al­liance seems to have mus­tered sup­port from the LPC, BCP, NIP and MFP thus giv­ing it an ad­e­quate ma­jor­ity to form gov­ern­ment. How­ever what re­mains is a list of ques­tions; how long will it last, how ef­fec­tive will it be, how dif­fer­ent will it be in terms of deal­ing with the chal­lenges of a sim­i­lar na­ture with that of the pre­vi­ous?

Th­ese is­sues need to be ad­dressed but off course not in a sin­gle ar­ti­cle. While they will all be dis­cussed in this and other ar­ti­cles, for now, the ques­tion is “what lessons have been learnt pre­vi­ously to in­form ne­go­ti­a­tion of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment?”

A coali­tion can be de­fined as a group of or­gan­i­sa­tions that come to­gether for the pur­pose of gain­ing more in­flu­ence and power than the in­di­vid­ual or­gan­i­sa­tions can achieve on its own. In fact it is an at­tempt to get the nec­es­sary fifty-plus ma­jor­ity with­out which one can­not le­git­i­mately hold power. In sim­ple terms, this and pre­vi­ous coali­tions were ne­ces­si­tated by in­ad­e­quacy.

There are also dif­fer­ent forms of coali­tions pre­dom­i­nantly determined by the pur­pose for which they have been formed, some are ide­ol­ogy based, oth­ers ben­e­fit de­fined or cir­cum­stan­tial goals. This coali­tion is made up of po­lit­i­cal par­ties that have, at one point, been to­gether in a sin­gle or­gan­i­sa­tion but have split and pro­lif­er­ated into var­i­ous pieces.

Sev­eral at­tempts to rec­on­cile have not been suc­cess­ful but it would seem that for the pur­poses of at­tain­ing the nec­es­sary ma­jor­ity to lead gov­ern­ment, work­ing to­gether is an op­tion. Though the congress par­ties have on their own num­bers that reach the gov­ern­ment thresh­old, the na­tion­al­ist mi­nor­ity gives them the ex­tra seats in a ma­jor­ity that re­mains slim any­way. The Popular Front for Democ­racy sup­port to the gov­ern­ment with its two seats will give gov­ern­ment a work­ing slim ma­jor­ity with MFP also join­ing the ranks.

It would seem that that the All Baso- tho Con­ven­tion with its ally the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party will re­main in op­po­si­tion with the Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL). How­ever, it may not be a game­down for the DC which is also known for its abil­ity to dis­lodge op­po­si­tion.

Ne­go­ti­at­ing for a coali­tion gov­ern­ment may seem sim­ple but there are a few is­sues which need to be looked at. The crit­i­cal is­sues to look at for the work­ing coali­tion are; build­ing a coali­tion, main­tain­ing a coali­tion, mak­ing a coali­tion rel­e­vant to the con­tem­po­rary is­sues and mak­ing a coali­tion ac­ces­si­ble.

In build­ing the coali­tion, first and fore­most is the dec­la­ra­tion and hon­esty on the rea­sons for com­ing to­gether. Are th­ese par­ties com­ing to­gether be­cause they are par­ties of congress ori­gin and if so what that does that ex­actly mean or are they com­ing to­gether for a specif­i­cally-de­fined ben­e­fit or are they brought to­gether by the cir­cum­stances?

Even if lead­ers may want to hide this from the peo­ple, it would be help­ful to be open about it in their ranks. In or­der to come to an agree­ment, the par­ties should have ne­go­ti­at­ing teams that en­gage one an­other.

In fact the par­ties should be able to ne­go­ti­ate their in­ter­ests. Par­ties should en­sure that they talk about and con­clude on all is­sues raised. This means that they should adopt an “all or noth­ing” ne­go­ti­at­ing strat­egy where “noth­ing is agreed un­til ev­ery­thing is agreed”.

This means that par­ties should not rush to agree­ments while they still have out­stand­ing is­sues. They should be able to de­lib­er­ate and agree or dis­agree on all the is­sues raised be­fore cut­ting a deal. It would be a recipe for dis­as­ter to say par­ties should go ahead with sign­ing an agree­ment while one or a num­ber of is­sues would be ad­dressed later. Let the par­ties agree first or dis­agree on ev­ery­thing be­fore sign­ing.

Then what is agreed should be widely shared and pop­u­larised among the or­gan- isa­tions in­volved and the pop­u­lace. In or­der to main­tain the coali­tion, there must be a clearly de­fined and con­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion strat­egy at all lev­els of party lead­er­ship and struc­tures. There should be en­gage­ment and pol­icy de­lib­er­a­tion plat­forms serv­ing as pol­icy har­mon­i­sa­tion.

This will re­duce the bur­den of deal­ing with con­flict­ing pol­icy is­sues in the cabi­net. Like it has been said, it is a known fact that th­ese par­ties came into be­ing be­cause of un­re­solved con­flicts. It is there­fore log­i­cal to be­lieve that there shall be in­ter-party as well as in­tra­party con­flict. It is, there­fore, a ne­ces­sity to have a de­fined con­flict man­age­ment frame­work.

There is ab­so­lutely no way through which coali­tion lead­er­ship and lead­er­ship style (iden­ti­fi­able, recog­nis­able and de­ci­sive lead­er­ship) can only be alien­ated at the peril of coali­tion. The recog­nised, open and demo­crat­i­cally con­ducted struc­tures should be en­abled to take de­ci­sions not in­for­mal and un­ac­count­able for­ma­tions.

The coali­tion should have a strate­gic di­rec­tion and regular re­views. The coali­tion gov­ern­ment should be rel­e­vant to the con­tem­po­rary needs of the peo­ple it serves. It would be nec­es­sary for the coali­tion gov­ern­ment to en­sure public par­tic­i­pa­tion av­enues where peo­ple’s voices are well chan­neled and di­rected to in­flu­ence de­ci­sion-mak­ing pro­cesses.

This means that gov­ern­ment should not be seen as a pre­serve for the favoured, the learned and the op­por­tunists. An­other im­por­tant in­gre­di­ent would be open­ness of the coali­tion to the views not orig­i­nat­ing from in­side its ranks.

The ret­ro­gres­sive ten­dency that politi­cians have is that noth­ing con­struc­tive comes from out­side their ranks. Civil so­ci­ety or­gan­i­sa­tions for ex­am­ple rep­re­sent a for­mi­da­ble force for pol­icy ad­vise and di­rec­tion but it is the sec­tor that is nor­mally viewed neg­a­tively by politi­cians who de­spise dia­logue.

Un­less those who have power be­lieve and un­der­stand that hav­ing a good idea about one’s coun­try does not have to be bound by naïve par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal in­cli­na­tions, this coun­try will stag­nate. Kicks backs and re­wards for the cam­paign stal­warts should not ham­per the gov­ern­ment ob­jec­tiv­ity, vig­i­lance and di­rec­tion.

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