Ma­hao calls for grand coali­tion

Lesotho Times - - Election 2015 - Billy Ntaote

Na­tional Uni­ver­sity of le­sotho vicechan­cel­lor Nqosa Ma­hao says Satur­day’s par­lia­men­tary elec­tions failed to achieve their in­tended pur­pose of unit­ing Ba­sotho and only a broad-based coali­tion gov­ern­ment could bring last­ing peace to the trou­bled king­dom.

Speak­ing dur­ing a break­fast meet­ing for civil so­ci­ety and po­lit­i­cal party rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Maseru yes­ter­day, Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao said he agreed with sug­ges­tions made this week by for­mer Kenya Prime Min­is­ter Raila odinga, when de­liv­er­ing the african Union (au)’s pre­lim­i­nary state­ment on the week­end’s snap elec­tions.

in his speech de­liv­ered at le­sotho Sun Ho­tel on Mon­day, Mr odinga — who was head of the au ob­server Mission to the elec­tions — said a grand coali­tion of the big­gest par­ties would unite the peo­ple and “heal wounds”, thereby en­sur­ing long-last­ing peace in the coun­try.

the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) won 47 of the 120 seats up for grabs in the poll, while the all Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC) had 46, le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) 12 and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) seven.

How­ever, the DC, LCD, le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress (one seat), Ba­sotho Congress Party (one seat), Popular Front for Democ­racy (two seats), Na­tional in­de­pen­dent Party (one seat) and Mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party (one seat) have since an­nounced an al­liance, au­to­mat­i­cally mak­ing them the new gov­ern­ment be­cause their com­bined seats breach the min­i­mum thresh­old of 61 they need to rule.

How­ever, Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao be­lieves the ex­clu­sion of the ABC might present prob­lems for the new gov­ern­ment.

“a grand coali­tion was go­ing to be best way to go for le­sotho, es­pe­cially if you look at the num­ber of con­stituen­cies won by the coun­try’s two big­gest par­ties, namely the ABC and DC.

“With the two in gov­ern­ment, you would have con­sen­sus on in­sti­tu­tional and con­sti­tu­tional re­forms as they would be built around in­clu­siv­ity and fo­cus on na­tional heal­ing,” said Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao.

“this grand coali­tion would en­able our so­ci­ety to walk out of this cri­sis we find our­selves in oth­er­wise within a very short pe­riod of time, we are go­ing to be in a dif­fi­cult sit­u­a­tion once again. This is be­cause the tech­ni­cal ma­jor­ity of 51 per­cent would be in gov­ern­ment and im­pose its own script on the peo­ple.”

Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao fur­ther ar­gued the 28 Fe­bru­ary vote was sup­posed to be a “ref­er­en­dum” be­cause it ap­peared “the whole ar­chi­tec­ture of gov­er­nance over the last six months had col­lapsed and it was not clear who was in power”.

He con­tin­ued: “in a sense, we could say we were very close to a dys­func­tional state as re­flected by chaotic gov­er­nance or col­lapse of gov­er­nance.

“So our in­ter­na­tional part­ners, par­tic­u­larly SADC (South­ern african devel­op­ment Com­mu­nity), took a de­ci­sion that in or­der to re­solve this is­sue, let the na­tion have elec­tions.

“How­ever, we have had the elec­tions and my ver­dict is they have failed to re­solve our prob­lems be­cause the re­sults clearly show that no sin­gle party was given the man­date to rule le­sotho.

“If any­thing, th­ese re­sults re­flect very deep di­vi­sions across the na­tion be­cause if you look at the two ma­jor po­lit­i­cal play­ers, the DC and ABC, you will see that the elec­torate was cut right in the mid­dle.

“and so if the idea was that the elec­tions were go­ing to put the man­date to rule on one per­son, then they vir­tu­ally failed.

“or­di­nar­ily, tech­ni­cal man­dates are okay where you have a nor­mal sit­u­a­tion. For in­stance, in the 2012 gen­eral elec­tions, the sit­u­a­tion was nor­mal, but the cur­rent one is not, so it can­not be ad­dressed by a tech­ni­cal man­date.”

ac­cord­ing to Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao, le­sotho’s se­cu­rity cri­sis which con­trib­uted to the fall of the ABC, LCD and BNP gov­ern­ment prompt­ing an elec­tion two years ahead of sched­ule, could also have been ad­dressed through a grand coali­tion. a le­sotho De­fence Force raid on three po­lice sta­tions in Maseru on 30 au­gust 2014, re­sulted in the death of one se­nior po­lice­man and in­jury to scores of oth­ers.

“it is com­mon cause some peo­ple were killed by this sit­u­a­tion. the ques­tion is how can a tech­ni­cal man­date ad­dress that sit­u­a­tion as it does not mat­ter which of the two camps comes to power.

“the ques­tion is how is it go­ing to ad­dress those is­sues of peo­ple who were vic­tims in this sit­u­a­tion? Se­condly, how would it ad­dress the sit­u­a­tion of those peo­ple who were on the wrong side of the law?

“is there go­ing to be an amnesty and if so, what would be the terms of this par­don? And there are (high-pro­file) cor­rup­tion cases pending be­fore the courts. What is go­ing to hap­pen to them?” the pro­fes­sor asked.

the NUL vice-chan­cel­lor added it was clear with a tech­ni­cal man­date, such is­sues would be ad­dressed based on the “stand­ing of the writer of the script”.

Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao fur­ther said an­other ma­jor is­sue the elec­tions should have tack­led was the politi­ci­sa­tion of the public ser­vice, which he in­sisted would con­tinue to un­der­mine ser­vice-de­liv­ery.

“You will re­mem­ber that there were peo­ple who were por­trayed as vic­tims of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment in the public ser­vice.

“there were also claims that there were at­tempts to cap­ture the state through civil ser­vants. Where you have peo­ple who do not have a clear man­date but just a sim­ple ma­jor­ity writ­ing the script, how are we go­ing to deal with those is­sues?”

the other rea­son why a grand coali­tion would have been ideal for le­sotho was con­sti­tu­tional and in­sti­tu­tional re­forms, Pro­fes­sor Ma­hao said.

“Now the in­ter­est­ing thing is some of those is­sues that need to be con­sti­tu­tion­alised re­quire a much big­ger con­sen­sus by the public and par­lia­ment.

“For in­stance, there are is­sues such as par­lia­ment’s pro­ro­ga­tion which, ac­cord­ing to the con­sti­tu­tion, can­not be amended un­less you re­fer them to a ref­er­en­dum.

“the con­sti­tu­tion says you may only avoid a ref­er­en­dum if you win two-thirds ma­jor­ity for the amend­ment in par­lia­ment.

“Now the like­li­hood that any of this patched man­date com­pris­ing many par­ties would at­tain a two-thirds ma­jor­ity seems to be a lit­tle bit of wish­ful think­ing,” he said.

NUL Vice-chan­cel­lor Nqosa Ma­hao

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