Elec­toral model un­der scru­tiny

Lesotho Times - - News - Keiso Mohloboli

NA­TIONAL Univer­sity of Le­sotho Head of the Depart­ment of Po­lit­i­cal and Ad­min­is­tra­tive Stud­ies, Mot­lamelle Kapa, says the Mixed Mem­ber Pro­por­tional (MMP) vot­ing sys­tem is no longer ap­pro­pri­ate for Le­sotho.

Un­der the MMP, the num­ber of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) each party re­ceives af­ter an elec­tion is pro­por­tional to the votes the party would have gar­nered, al­low­ing for a wider range of po­lit­i­cal views in the leg­is­la­ture.

But ac­cord­ing to Dr Kapa, af­ter Le­sotho im­ple­mented the MMP model in 2002, the sys­tem worked be­cause elec­tion-re­sults at the time did not ne­ces­si­tate a mul­ti­party gov­ern­ment.

“The MMP model was in­tro­duced into our pol­i­tics in 2002 and worked well at the time. But un­til the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy (LCD) and Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) formed a coali­tion gov­ern­ment (af­ter the 26 May 2012 elec­tion pro­duced a hung par­lia­ment), no one had re­alised that smaller par­ties which had pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the Na­tional Assem­bly could desta­bilise mul­ti­party ad­min­is­tra­tions.

“I strongly be­lieve the smaller par­ties don’t de­serve to be in­cluded in coali­tion gov­ern­ments be­cause they don’t fit the def­i­ni­tion of a po­lit­i­cal party any­way.

“A po­lit­i­cal party is an en­tity that is ready and fit to be the next gov­ern­ment and can in­flu­ence gov­ern­ment poli­cies. In other words, it is a gov­ern­mentin-wait­ing.

“How­ever, our smaller par­ties don’t fit this def­i­ni­tion, and some ei­ther don’t have an op­er­a­tional of­fice or a Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee. Some are one-man par­ties where the leader and his fam­ily are the ad­min­is­tra­tors.

“So it is un­fair for big­ger par­ties which have sup­port­ers and would have been voted for, to be side-lined in the for­ma­tion of coali­tion gov­ern­ments.

“When Le­sotho un­der­takes con­sti­tu­tional and se­cu­rity re­forms, the Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties Act should also be en­acted to avoid these smaller par­ties hold­ing the big­ger par­ties to ran­som.

“If the leader of a big party in a coali­tion gov­ern­ment doesn’t agree on cer­tain is­sues with his coun­ter­parts from the smaller par­ties, they threaten to cross the floor in Par­lia­ment and form another al­liance with other par­ties. The Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties Act would have to give a clear def­i­ni­tion of what a po­lit­i­cal party re­ally is.”

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Kapa, the cur­rent elec­toral model should be changed if Le­sotho’s po­lit­i­cal prob­lems are to be ad­dressed once and for all.

“We need to have po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the true sense of po­lit­i­cal par­ties. They should be in a po­si­tion to have sig­nif­i­cance in Par­lia­ment to in­flu­ence poli­cies. In Le­sotho, po­lit­i­cal par­ties are reg­is­tered un­der the So­ci­eties Act of 1967 and only register with the In­de­pen­dent Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (IEC) so that they can qual­ify to con­test elec­tions.

“These small par­ties don’t even bother to cam­paign or work hard to be­come gov­ern­ment be­cause of this MMP model.

“They only strive to have at least 2000 votes so that they can have pro­por­tional rep­re­sen­ta­tion in the au­gust house.

“They just don’t care about poli­cies be­cause they were not sent to Par­lia­ment by the elec­torate. For ex­am­ple, in this gov­ern­ment, one could have a po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tific view that the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) is the only party con­cerned about the peo­ple be­cause they were vot- ed for and given a man­date by the elec­torate while these small par­ties don’t care be­cause they don’t have such a re­spon­si­bil­ity.”

How­ever, for­mer IEC Com­mis­sioner and po­lit­i­cal sci­en­tist Fako Likoti ( pic­tured) begs to dif­fer with Dr Kapa and in­sists the MMP elec­toral sys­tem is good for Le­sotho and democ­racy.

“To start with, there is no need for the Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties Act be­cause Le­sotho al­ready has the Na­tional Assem­bly Elec­toral Act of 2011 to mon­i­tor po­lit­i­cal par­ties. The MMP elec­toral sys­tem en­cour­ages coali­tion gov­ern­ments and se­condly, it is a com­pen­satory model for elected par­ties. The MMP is the best sys­tem for Le­sotho,” Dr Likoti said.

The for­mer IEC Com­mis­sioner fur­ther dis­agreed with Dr Kapa’s ob­ser­va­tion that smaller par­ties cre­ate in­sta­bil­ity in a coali­tion gov­ern­ment and that they don’t meet the re­quire­ments to be called po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“They are duly elected and look­ing at the wider pic­ture, they don’t have a con­stituency be­cause they are elected in all the con­stituen­cies,” Dr Likoti said.

Ac­cord­ing to Dr Likoti, smaller par­ties find them­selves un­der a bar­rage of at­tacks be­cause the DC re­fused to form a grand coali­tion with the ABC, which had won the high­est num­ber of con­stituen­cies in the 28 Fe­bru­ary 2015 snap elec­tions called due to a power-strug­gle be­tween the ABC and LCD lead­ers.

The ABC, led by for­mer prime min­is­ter Thomas Tha­bane, clinched 40 of the 80 con­tested con­stituen­cies, while Dr Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s DC took 37, the LCD had two and the BNP won one. How­ever, af­ter the al­lo­ca­tion of PR seats, the DC ended up with the high­est num­ber of seats (47), fol­lowed by the ABC, LCD and BNP at 46, 12, and seven re­spec­tively.

The More­mat­lou Free­dom Party (MFP), Ba­sotho Congress Party (BCP), Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Party (NIP), and Le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress (LPC) ended up with one seat each while the Pop­u­lar Front for Democ­racy ( PFD) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho had two PR seats apiece to com­plete the 120seat leg­is­la­ture.

The DC then de­cided to form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the LCD, MFP, BCP, NIP, LPC and PFD, cut­ting short Dr Tha­bane’s reign, which was sup­posed to end in 2017. Po­lit­i­cal an­a­lysts had then called for a grand coali­tion of the big par­ties to en­sure a sta­ble gov­ern­ment, which how­ever, did not hap­pen.

Dr Likoti noted: “Sug­ges­tions to have the Po­lit­i­cal Par­ties Act and mon­i­tor floor-cross­ing by MPS are be­ing made by peo­ple who don’t ap­pre­ci­ate democ­racy. In fact, there is noth­ing wrong with floor-cross­ing; it is demo­cratic and there is noth­ing im­moral about it.

“Pol­i­tics is about ne­go­ti­a­tions so there is noth­ing wrong with smaller par­ties ne­go­ti­at­ing terms and con­di­tions of be­com­ing part of a coali­tion gov­ern­ment.

“The smaller par­ties are con­stantly be­ing at­tacked sim­ply be­cause they agreed to form a coali­tion gov­ern­ment with the DC, mak­ing the pro­posed grand coali­tion un­nec­es­sary.”

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