‘Le­sotho needs a unity govt’

Lesotho Times - - Big Interview -

THE In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) yes­ter­day an­nounced the al­lo­ca­tion of par­lia­men­tary seats fol­low­ing the re­lease of the 28 Fe­bru­ary gen­eral elec­tions re­sults, which have re­sulted in a hung par­lia­ment yet again.

From the 120 seats avail­able, the al­lo­ca­tion went as fol­lows: Demo­cratic Congress 47, All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) 46, Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) 12, Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) seven, Popular Front for Democ­racy (PFD) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL) two seats each, while Mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party (MFP), Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Party (NIP) and Ba­sotho Congress Party (BCP) got one seat each.

In this wide-rang­ing in­ter­view with Le­sotho Times ( LT) re­porter, Lekhetho Nt­sukun­yane, Trans­for­ma­tion Re­source Cen­tre (TRC) Direc­tor Tšoeu Pet­lane, who is also a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist, sheds light on what kind of gov­ern­ment Ba­sotho fol­low­ing the re­sults of the elec­tions.

LT: The IEC has an­nounced the elec­tion re­sults. Can you an­a­lyse th­ese re­sults and tell us ex­actly what they mean for the na­tion.

Pet­lane: Tech­ni­cally it means we have a hung par­lia­ment, and more so than in 2012. If we thought the 2012 elec­tion re­sults were un­cer­tain, in terms of who was go­ing to be in gov­ern­ment and who was not, this time around it is much more so. In 2012 there were pos­si­bil­i­ties.

We could see coali­tions be­ing cre­ated, but even if they were to be cre­ated ac­cord­ing to the fault lines that we al­ready are familiar with, we would still have al­most 50/50 split be­tween the two camps (Demo­cratic Congress (DC) and All Ba­sotho Congress (ABC)). And we would still have less than the req­ui­site num­bers to form gov­ern­ment on ei­ther side.

The vari­a­tion is be­tween 46 and 47. So if we are look­ing at a par­lia­ment where there are two camps of equal weight, then it is a hung par­lia­ment.

Last time, we had two camps of rel­a­tively equal weight, but we also had a group of par­ties that could swing ei­ther way. This time we have only three seats that could swing ei­ther way, and that is go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult thing.

LT: How do we go for­ward?

Pet­lane: The DCLCD gov­ern­ment will be dif­fi­cult in two senses. Firstly, it will be fac­ing a very strong op­po­si­tion. It is go­ing to be an op­po­si­tion al­most equal to the gov­ern­ment in weight in Par­lia­ment, so that is go­ing to be a dif­fi­cult sce­nario.

The sec­ond dif­fi­culty is that it will be made up of many par­ties.

And, be­cause of the ap­par­ent ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences within the cob­bled up coali­tion gov­ern­ment that is now en­vis­aged to take over, there are go­ing to be mis­un­der­stand­ings, dis­agree­ments and con­stant threats to the sur­vival of the gov­ern­ment.

LT: What are your sug­ges­tions as po­lit­i­cal ex­perts or non-gov­ern­men­tal or­gan­i­sa­tions in the coun­try? Pet­lane: A cou­ple of pro­pos­als have been put on the ta­ble that rec­om­mend a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity or a grand coali­tion. Tech­ni­cally there is a dif­fer­ence. A gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity means bring­ing every­body into con­cert and agree­ing that we are not go­ing to have an op­po­si­tion, and we are not go­ing to have peo­ple called gov­ern­ment. So every­body now brings their seats into the gov­ern­ment and th­ese are nor­mally tran­si­tional ar­range­ments that are sup­posed to sta­bilise the sit­u­a­tion.

And from there, we move for­ward to a com­pet­i­tive elec­tion af­ter a pe­riod that can then be agreed on.

A grand coali­tion nor­mally is when there is the lead­er­ship, or a lead­ing party that then de­cides to put to­gether a gov­ern­ment that is made up of par­ties be­yond it­self. Let’s look at the case of the ANC (African Na­tional Congress) in South Africa. They formed a grand coali­tion (fol­low­ing the 1994 elec­tions) in the sense that the ANC had al­ready won the ma­jor­ity but be­cause they were on a na­tion-build­ing agenda, de­cided to bring in other par­ties.

So while there were still di­vi­sions and a side called op­po­si­tion, the side called gov­ern­ment opened up the doors and said who­ever wants to par­tic­i­pate in the gov­ern­ment side please come in.

The other par­ties would then come in on the ba­sis that they all have a com­mon vi­sion. It would not be a pro­gram­matic vi­sion but about na­tional dy­nam­ics and con­sen­sus.

So it then be­comes a grand coali­tion, which goes be­yond just seek­ing a man­date or seek­ing a ma­jor­ity in par­lia­ment. It looks into a big­ger na­tional agenda.

LT: Which of the two mod­els you have men­tioned is most prefer­able for the sit­u­a­tion in Le­sotho?

Pet­lane: A gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity starts by say­ing there shall not be op­po­si­tion. Every­body shall be work­ing to­wards na­tional unity. It is more in­clu­sive than the grand coali­tion. A grand coali­tion still as­sumes there is go­ing to be a gov­ern­ment and an op­po­si­tion.

A gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity, even the name al­ready tells you, is meant to unite the na­tion and that’s nor­mally a short-term as­sign­ment that may not nec­es­sar­ily be a re­sult of elec­tions. Some­times it pre­cedes an elec­tion. And it’s nor­mally a post-cri­sis ar­range­ment. So that will be the way that I un­der­stand it. If we go for the grand coali­tion sce­nario, you might have one or two par­ties stay­ing out of that coali­tion.

I sus­pect that if one of the two big par­ties de­cides to stay out of that grand coali­tion, then you would still re­main with the di­chotomy that does not re­ally ad­dress the is­sue of in­cor­po­rat­ing the ma­jor­ity. So that will be dif­fi­culty num­ber one.

If we are look­ing at a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity, then the driv­ing forces would have to be the ABC and DC be­cause, be­tween them al­ready, they have more than 70 per­cent of the na­tional votes.

The dif­fi­culty at the mo­ment is that un­der the cur­rent cir­cum­stances we have cre­ated a di­chotomy in our pol­i­tics where we have got Congress and Na­tion­al­ist par­ties.

And now, a lot of peo­ple have got rancour in their hearts that says the two camps are like wa­ter and oil and there­fore can­not merge. That strict di­vi­sion is still very strong.

LT: What do you think is go­ing to hap­pen in this two-week win­dow pe­riod?

Pet­lane: I am more in­clined to­wards a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity be­cause I think that it is what is best for the na­tion. It will give us an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress some of those se­ri­ous con­sti­tu­tional re­forms that we have so far failed to ad­dress.

Those in­clude floor cross­ing, se­nate re­forms, for­ma­tion of gov­ern­ment, pro­ro­ga­tion, mo­tion of no con­fi­dence, dual cit­i­zen­ship, army and civil­ian re­la­tions, con­trol of the armed forces and so on.

There is a whole se­ries of con­sti­tu­tional and in­sti­tu­tional re­forms that Le­sotho needs to go through in or­der to sta­bilise the in­sti­tu­tional sec­tor that will then sup­port democ­racy. And we have so far failed to ad­dress those be­cause we have been ei­ther deal­ing with var­i­ous cri­sis or we have had gov­ern­ments that, by the na­ture of what the agen­das are, would have no in­ter­est in ad­dress­ing those is­sues.

I am more in­clined to­wards a gov­ern­ment of na­tional unity be­cause I think that is what is best for the na­tion. It will give us an op­por­tu­nity to ad­dress some of those se­ri­ous con­sti­tu­tional re­forms that we have so far failed to ad­dress.

TRC Direc­tor Tšoeu Pet­lane.

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