Grand coalition the best option
THERE is no doubt that the just ended snap elections have left Lesotho severely polarised. Which is why, for the sake and benefit of this country, we fully agree with former Kenyan Prime Minister Raila Odinga that a grand coalition, possibly involving all the major political protagonists, the Democratic Congress (DC) and All Basotho Convention (ABC), alongside their two main respective allies, Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP) would have been preferable. The danger of such a broad inclusive government is that it effectively kills the opposition for a while. But Lesotho has gone through a very traumatic few months requiring a cooling-off period in which the country focuses on national healing, reconciliation and development. Everything of developmental significance seems to have taken a back seat as the now ended ABC/LCD/ BNP coalition squabbled ad infinitum.
It is difficult to see how the constitutional and political reforms mooted during the mediation process that led to this weekend’s snap elections could ever be implemented in a hung Parliament. Of course proposals for a grand coalition do not cancel Pakalitha Mosisili’s right to form an alliance of his choosing after the DC emerged with the most seats at 47. The Thomas Thabane-led coalition prevailed with a single seat in 2012. Mr Mosisili was gracious enough to hand over power then. We expect Dr Thabane to do the same. More so that Mr Mosisili has amassed a majority of five seats.
This, of course will not resolve the problems that require far reaching legislative and constitutional reforms to ensure that Lesotho does not again have to undergo the trauma of the past few years after the events of 30 August 2014. A resolution of all the challenges the country faces requires a multipartisan approach involving all and sundry. Political maturity and enduring passion by our political class to subjugate personal interests in favour of the national cause is what it will take to move this country forward.
Yet the danger always lurks that when the new Parliament opens, it will be business as usual. Squabbles, squabbles, squabbles and more squabbles. A great deal will depend on Dr Thabane himself. He must be gracious in defeat as Mr Mosisili was gracious in defeat in 2012. But it also requires Mr Mosisili to be humble and magnanimous in victory and be willing to work with his vanquished protégé. In a pre-election interview with the Lesotho Times, Dr Thabane was asked if he could consider a coalition with Mr Mosisili. The outgoing prime minister gave a terse answer, saying he would let the DC leader answer first as “he is my boss”. This was indeed a clever way of avoiding the question. Now that Mr Mosisili is back in power, he is best suited to show the way.
Dr Thabane and Mr Mosisili have for long straddled Lesotho’s political path like the proverbial colossus. Both are in their 70s and in the twilight of their political careers. It would be a shame if they both left a deeply divided nation at war with itself. It’s never too late for them to consider accommodating each other. If not in a coalition, then in some form of pact of working together to move this country forward, at least in the short-term.
The swearing in ceremony of Mr Mosisili will be a good start if the two can replay their 2012 show of statesmanship and appear together to implore Basotho to join hands and work for the good of this country. Of course Lesotho has not experienced the same amount of mayhem we saw in Kenya in 2007 when thousands were killed, injured or displaced after disputed elections that year. But Mr Odinga is right that the all-inclusive government formed thereafter afforded the east African nation a crucial period of healing and reforms including the writing of a new constitution. All the reforms done then have since transformed Kenya for the better. They would not have been achieved if Mr Odinga and his then rival, Mwai Kibaki, had remained at loggerheads in opposing camps.
It is no surprise that the idea of a grand coalition has been endorsed by many notable Basotho including National University of Lesotho (NUL) vice chancellor Professor Nqusa Mahao and Transformation Resource Centre Director Tsoeu Petlane. While the idea might appear implausible now, in light of Mr Mosisili’s announcement of his new alliance yesterday, nothing is ever cast in stone. The sooner the two political giants realise that their cooperation in one form or another is what this country badly needs — at least in the short term — the better.