Grand coali­tion the best op­tion

Lesotho Times - - Leader -

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.

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