Whose D-day will open­ing of parly be?

Lesotho Times - - Opinion & Analysis - So­fonea Shale

THE rel­a­tively slug­gish pace of de­vel­op­ments in the post — elec­tion era, ac­com­pa­nied by the deaf­en­ing si­lence from gov­ern­ment has not only cre­ated a gap be­tween what gov­ern­ment in­tends to do and what peo­ple think. It has re­sulted in ex­ag­ger­ated ru­mours on the per­ceived chal­lenges the seven party coali­tion faces in com­ing up with a pro­gramme of ac­tion.

Within the pop­u­lace, a per­cep­tion has been fer­mented that gov­ern­ment is in a grid­lock. In this heated par­ti­san po­lit­i­cal divide, facts, knowl­edge and dis­course ethics are the first ca­su­al­ties to be re­placed by the la­belling of those with dis­sent­ing voices.

It is in this con­text that the open­ing of par­lia­ment is highly an­tic­i­pated by the op­po­si­tion which looks for­ward to the gov­ern­ment split­ting on the one hand while the gov­ern­ment also en­vis­ages the same of the op­po­si­tion. The ques­tion now dom­i­nat­ing the public sphere is whether the open­ing of par­lia­ment is a D-day for gov­ern­ment or the op­po­si­tion?

This ar­ti­cle may not be able to en­gage this ques­tion any fur­ther than ac­knowl­edg­ing that that are peo­ple who be­lieve that the dis­con­tent within the Demo­cratic Congress may re­sult in a split and the sub­se­quent col­lapse of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment. On the other hand, some al­lege that All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion deputy leader Tlali Khasu will de­fect with oth­ers to the DC thus mak­ing the coali­tion gov­ern­ment nu­mer­i­cally stronger in par­lia­ment.

The na­ture of th­ese con­flicts, the way they are han­dled and the po­ten­tial con­se­quences may be en­gaged in fu­ture in­stal­ments. Whether the gov­ern­ment or op­po­si­tion will split when par­lia­ment opens is some­thing that can be un­der­stood from var­i­ous as­pects. Per­haps the con­tri­bu­tion of this ar­ti­cle could be to as­cer­tain whether de­fec­tions are pos­si­ble, at least dur­ing the open­ing of par­lia­ment.

Sec­tion 82 (1) (b) of the Le­sotho con­sti­tu­tion which pro­vides for the meet­ing of par­lia­ment af­ter dis­so­lu­tion is given ap­pli­ca­tion by the Stand­ing Or­ders. Each House of par­lia­ment has its own Stand­ing Or­ders though they are fun­da­men­tally sim­i­lar.

The first meet­ing of par­lia­ment in the con­text of the Na­tional As­sem­bly is when the House first meets within 14 days af­ter elec­tions have been held. In this meet­ing, Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) elect the speaker and take an oath in the Na­tional As­sem­bly and, in like man­ner, sen­a­tors elect the pres­i­dent and take the oath. Th­ese meet­ings are not the same with the first sit­ting of the ses­sion of par­lia­ment.

In a sim­i­lar for­mat as the first meet­ing of par­lia­ment, the first sit­ting of the ses­sion of par­lia­ment is pre­scribed. Once the King has sig­nalled His de­sire to open by de­liv­er­ing a speech and when, the of­fice of the Speaker then makes the nec­es­sary ar­range­ments. This is nor­mally a joint sit­ting where sen­a­tors and MPS are col­lec­tively ad­dressed by the King. Once His Majesty has de­liv­ered the speech which is known as the Speech from the Throne, the Speaker may sus­pend or ad­journ sit­ting to a day she/he may de­cide. Un­der­stand­ably, the Speaker de­ter­mines in con­sul­ta­tion with gov­ern­ment. When par­lia­ment re­sumes on the stip­u­lated day, the Na­tional As­sem­bly and Se­nate would, in their re­spec­tive ju­ris­dic­tions ad­dress them­selves to the Speech from the Throne.

It would seem that pre­scribed as it is, the open­ing of par­lia­ment may not nec­es­sar­ily ac­com­mo­date de­fec­tions. How­ever, this does not dis­card the pos­si­bil­ity of such in the sub­se­quent days of par­lia­men­tary work.

What has to be ad­mit­ted is that en­thu­si­asm about the open­ing of par­lia­ment is at least for the time be­ing mis­placed as it is based on de­fec­tions and the con­fig­u­ra­tion of power and loy­al­ties to sup­port or undo gov­ern­ment. So, even if it would be D-day for ei­ther the gov­ern­ment or op­po­si­tion, it may be at dif­fer­ent lev­els or for dif­fer­ent rea­sons.

The Speech from the Throne is the pre­sen­ta­tion of gov­ern­ment’s in­ten­sions by His Majesty. In fact what the King says at this oc­ca­sion is, and should be taken as an in­struc­tion to His Majesty’s gov­ern­ment.

This is ba­si­cally the prom­ises of the gov­ern­ment. For those who have been fol­low­ing the de­bate, this will be a D-day for gov­ern­ment not be­cause it will face de­fec­tion but be­cause it will be un­der a crit­i­cal lens.

The coali­tion gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to have con­cre­tised the in­ten­tions in the re­cently pub­li­cised Coali­tion Agree­ment into tan­gi­ble pol­icy de­liv­er­ables. As the King re­peat­edly says “My gov­ern­ment will….” in His Speech, coali­tion gov­ern­ment would be judged. Strate­gi­cally, the op­po­si­tion has not ex­pressed it­self on the Coali­tion Agree­ment but the mo­tion to be tabled by gov­ern­ment af­ter the Speech from the throne will be a mo­ment no one, in­clud­ing the op­po­si­tion, would be spared of.

When the Na­tional As­sem­bly next meets af­ter the Speech, the fol­low­ing mo­tion would be put; “…we, the Na­tional As­sem­bly of Le­sotho here as­sem­bled, beg leave to of­fer our hum­ble thanks for the speech which has been de­liv­ered by your Majesty to this Hon­ourable House” and the op­po­si­tion will be equally tested.

A dis­crep­ancy be­tween the Coali­tion Agree­ment and the Speech from the Throne would be a dis­as­ter for the gov­ern­ment. The Speech is a test of co­her­ent con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion of gov­ern­ment on what it wants to do.

On the other hand, for the op­po­si­tion it would be clar­ity on whether it sees gov­ern­ment pro­gramme and de­liv­er­ables ar­tic­u­lated in the Speech from the throne ad­e­quate to take Le­sotho for­ward. When the mo­tion is de­bated, the op­po­si­tion will be un­der the spot­light.

It is right here where its po­tency as ei­ther a sup­porter or an al­ter­na­tive to the nar­ra­tive of Dc-led coali­tion will be tested. Will the coali­tion gov­ern­ment mas­ter the con­nec­tion be­tween the Coali­tion Agree­ment and de­liv­er­ables on the pol­icy prom­ises? Whether the gov­ern­ment is able or not to demon­strate co­her­ent think­ing through His Majesty’s Speech, will the op­po­si­tion be able to con­firm the pres­ence or ab­sence of such a cor­re­la­tion?

If this ar­ti­cle is con­sid­ered a con­tri­bu­tion to the en­thu­si­as­tic de­bate about the open­ing of par­lia­ment and what it may mean to both gov­ern­ment and op­po­si­tion, then whose DDay is the open­ing of par­lia­ment? While the sim­i­lar en­thu­si­asm will be main­tained about open­ing, surely the con­tent will change.

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