How will pre­mier at­tain power this time around?

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THE en­thu­si­as­tic public re­ac­tion to the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) has demon­strated that peo­ple are fol­low­ing the process with keen in­ter­est. The key is­sues that got the at­ten­tion of many, was the elec­tion of the Speaker of the Na­tional As­sem­bly be­fore MPS had taken the oath and the un­ex­pected decline of the ABC-BNP-RCL bloc vot­ing on the po­si­tion of the Speaker and the Deputy.

In a sim­i­lar vein, Ba­sotho are anx­iously wait­ing to see the elec­tion of the prime min­is­ter by Par­lia­ment. This ar­ti­cle makes a con­tri­bu­tion in the on-go­ing public de­bate by pro­vid­ing light on some is­sues but also rais­ing ques­tions whose re­sponses by the rel­e­vant peo­ple may be ed­u­ca­tional.

It is a well-ac­cepted cul­ture that MPS or Sen­a­tors may not take part in the busi­ness of the House(s) be­fore tak­ing oath. How­ever, Ba­sotho have seen MPS elect­ing the Speaker be­fore tak­ing an oath. This re­minded many of the time when the prime min­is­ter was nearly sworn in be­fore tak­ing an oath as an MP.

Though it is quite log­i­cal and per­haps within legal pro­vi­sions to think this way, the ques­tion is whether it was cor­rect for the MPS to elect the Speaker be­fore tak­ing the oath or not?

The Con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho in Sec­tion 71(1) reads as fol­lows: “Ev­ery mem­ber of ei­ther House of Par­lia­ment shall, be­fore tak­ing his seat in that House, take and sub­scribe the oath of al­le­giance be­fore the House, but a mem­ber may be­fore tak­ing and sub­scrib­ing that oath take part in the elec­tion of the Pres­i­dent or the Speaker.”

This means there is noth­ing wrong in terms of the law with the pro­ce­dure that par­lia­ment fol­lowed in the swear­ing-in cer­e­mony for the MPS and elec­tion of the speaker and deputy. This may raise is­sues like how dif­fer­ent the elec­tion of the Speaker/pres­i­dent is from the rest of the busi­ness of the House which can­not be han­dled be­fore tak­ing oath.

How­ever this may be a mat­ter for con­sti­tu­tional de­bate and not the pro­ce­dure that many peo­ple were con­cerned about.

On the ba­sis of the ABC-BNP-RCL MPS, it was ex­pected that in the ab­sence of Dr Mot­lo­h­eloa Phooko who is ex­pected to take oath later if ever he still in­tends to go ahead with his membership of par­lia­ment, the bloc vote for th­ese par­ties would give 54 but it ended at 53. The im­me­di­ate ques­tion was who voted against his or her party among the 54 present mem­bers of this coali­tion of par­ties that may as­sume op­po­si­tion role? Per­haps some light should be shed on this one. Ev­ery MP has a right to vote the way he or she be­lieves is cor­rect.

This right is how­ever used within an ac­cepted cul­ture of tow­ing the party line. This is where mem­bers of the same party in par­lia­ment agree in what is known as party cau­cus to vote in a cer­tain way on a par­tic­u­lar is­sue. Nor­mally, the party cau­cus is sup­posed to be the heated de­bate place but his­tory has shown that in Le­sotho it has been used by the party lead­er­ship and cabi­net mem­bers to co­erce mem­bers into en­dors­ing things they would oth­er­wise freely choose not to. It is ex­pected that party mem­bers should sup­port the po­si­tion of the party when they ex­er­cise their free right to vote. In other par­lia­ments, MPS demon­strate their dis­con­tent right in the cau­cus and tell the party that they would use their con­science.

In that way, the decline vote does not come as a sur­prise. While this frame­work may be help­ful in em­pow­er­ing peo­ple to fig­ure out what could have hap­pened, it is even wiser to take a closer look at the con­text.

Not that the ABC and RCL are free from in­tra­party dis­con­tent but the re­cent rift within the Ba­sotho Na­tional Party over the sub­mis- sion of the PR list to the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion that ended up in the courts of law, puts it in the lime­light. The Sec­re­tary Gen­eral who was taken to court by the Party Chair­per­son for sub­mit­ting to the IEC the party list that in­cludes his name in­stead of the one be­lieved to have been drawn by the party that did not in­clude his name, be­comes the im­me­di­ate sus­pect in the eyes of many.

While this may be a gen­eral and per­haps a strong feel­ing, there are high chances of an al­ter­na­tive nar­ra­tive. Since the vot­ing was done through a se­cret bal­lot any­one who wants to de­monise the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral for the pur­poses of fu­elling the in­ter­nal dis­con­tent, may have eas­ily voted dif­fer­ently know­ing quite well that all eyes will look at the easy sus­pect.

There is also an­other pos­si­bil­ity that this has got noth­ing to do with BNP but one of the Mem­bers in this col­lec­tive could have felt that Hon Ntl­hoi Mot­samai and Hon Mon­tšuoe Lethoba were bet­ter can­di­dates than their op­po­nents and there­fore voted ac­cord­ingly.

Whether this has been done by the Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of BNP as many sus­pect or it is an­other per­pe­tra­tor, or by an­other mem­ber of the col­lec­tive, the net ef­fect is that it opens doors

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