Who should elect the premier: Cit­i­zens or MPS?

Lesotho Times - - Leader - So­fonea shale

The con­tem­plated con­sti­tu­tional re­view shall re­main an elit­ist process that in­su­lates politi­cians from pub­lic con­trol un­less cit­i­zens rise and ac­tively par­tic­i­pate in de­bate and di­a­logue to shape their con­sti­tu­tion. One of many ques­tions that Ba­sotho may need to in­ter­ro­gate is who should elect Prime Min­is­ter: the cit­i­zens or Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS)?

Upon in­de­pen­dence, Le­sotho in­her­ited the West­min­ster model of govern­ment whose key fea­tures in­clude an ex­ec­u­tive de­rived from the leg­is­la­ture. This means that govern­ment le­git­i­macy de­pends on sus­tained sup­port in par­lia­ment. In light of the re­al­ity that gov­er­nance sys­tems are not pre­his­tory but so­cial con­structs and that noth­ing holds Ba­sotho to things tried, tested and found durable for other na­tions if not lo­cally help­ful, the con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho should be thor­oughly en­gaged. In terms of the 1966 con­sti­tu­tion, the Prime Min­is­ter came from the Na­tional As­sem­bly but con­trary to the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion non-par­lia­men­tar­ian Min­is­ters were al­lowed. Ba­sotho made this change on their own, so what is it that they can­not change to suit their case this time around? The 1993 con­sti­tu­tion in­di­cates in Sec­tion 87(2) that the Prime Min­is­ter shall be a mem­ber of the Na­tional As­sem­bly who com­mands the ma­jor­ity in the house.

Pur­sued to com­pre­hen­sion and its log­i­cal con­clu­sion, this pro­vi­sion ba­si­cally says he or she who is sup­ported in par­lia­ment re­gard­less of how the cit­i­zens and the ac­tual elec­tors think, can be a Prime Min­is­ter. This equally means that the Prime Min­is­ter who may be pop­u­lar among cit­i­zens is likely to be re­moved so long as MPS do not think he or she is suit­able for the job. Be­cause the Mo­tion of No Con­fi­dence as con­tem­plated in Sec­tion 87(5) (a) of the con­sti­tu­tion and op­er­a­tionalised in Stand­ing Or­der num­ber 111 does not have to be based on any rea­son, MPS can de­cide to re­move the Prime Min­is­ter even for the rea­sons that peo­ple who voted for them can­not sup­port. The Sec­tion 87(2) of the con­sti­tu­tion is not only the most mis­un­der­stood sec­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion but one that has been mu­ti­lated since 1993 par­tic­u­larly due to ab­sence of en­abling leg­is­la­tion that op­er­a­tionalises it. Since 1993 no Mem­ber of Na­tional As­sem­bly has been ap­pointed by the King as the Prime Min­is­ter on the ba­sis of tested ma­jor­ity sup­port in the house. Though it is equally true that no Prime Min­is­ter could le­git­i­mately sit with­out ma­jor­ity sup­port in the house, to have a Prime Min­is­ter by im­pli­ca­tion while there is an af­fir­ma­tive con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sion demon­strates poor in­ter­pre­ta­tion and ap­pre­cia- tion of gov­er­nance ar­chi­tec­ture. There is a con­firmed ob­ser­va­tion that the ma­jor­ity of Ba­sotho do not know how the Prime Min­is­ter is elected.

When peo­ple cast their vote at the polling cen­tre in the con­stituency, ex­actly what are they do­ing? Sec­tion 57(1) (c) (i) of the Con­sti­tu­tion in­di­cates that in com­pos­ing the Na­tional As­sem­bly, there shall be 80 (eighty) Mem­bers to be elected in re­spect of each of the con­stituen­cies con­tem­plated by Sec­tion 67(1) and op­er­a­tionalised through Na­tional As­sem­bly elec­toral Act 2011, in par­tic­u­lar Sec­tion 80 pro­vid­ing that vot­ing in gen­eral elec­tions shall be con­ducted in ev­ery con­stituency. In this way, when cast­ing a vote, peo­ple vote for rep­re­sen­ta­tives of their con­stituen­cies and th­ese will de­ter­mine who be­comes the Prime Min­is­ter on be­half of the vot­ing pop­u­la­tion. Is it proper in a democ­racy for cit­i­zens to en­trust MPS with such a huge re­spon­si­bil­ity? Fur­ther does this le­gal pro­vi­sion re­flect the will of the peo­ple? Do peo­ple want MPS to elect and re­move the Prime Min­is­ter on their be­half or is just what the law pro­vides?

In gen­eral it is be­lieved that Ba­sotho do not nec­es­sar­ily vote for MPS as pre­ferred in­di­vid­u­als to rep­re­sent their con­stituen­cies but vote for lead­ers of political par­ties un­der which such can­di­dates con­test. In Le­sotho, sev­eral good can­di­dates have not made it against their political par­ties in con­stituen­cies. In the event that a pop­u­lar lo­cal politi­cian loses favour with cen­tral ex­ec­u­tive of his or her political party and there­fore right to rep­re­sent the party at the con­stituency, it is nor­mally hard to be voted if one con­tests as in­de­pen­dent can­di­date for par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. Peo­ple like the late Thabo Mokotso were able to beat political par­ties in con­test in con­stituen­cies and the most re­cent ex­pe­ri­ence was the one in which Bofihla Nkuebe beat the rul­ing Ba­suto Congress Party in the Qeme by-elec­tion in 1994 but the rest find it hard. This may per­haps be ex­pla­na­tion why even bad can­di­dates would be elected against oth­er­wise bet­ter. Why could this be, could it be be­cause the in­de­pen­dent can­di­date is likely to re­main or­di­nary Mem­ber of Par­lia­ment while vot­ing for a party can­di­date gives guar­an­tee that upon win­ning a party leader be­comes Prime Min­is­ter. how­ever in lo­cal govern­ment many in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates have beaten their political par­ties. In 2005 60 per cent of seats were won by in­de­pen­dent can­di­dates while in 2011it was 13 per cent.

If Ba­sotho de­cide that Prime Min­is­ter be elected di­rectly and not by proxy, MPS will no longer have ex­ces­sive right to de­cide on the head of ex­ec­u­tive. Those MPS who put un­due pres­sure on the Prime Min­is­ter to give them min­is­te­rial po­si­tions oth­er­wise they would join those who seek to re­move him will no longer have ef­fect. This also means that MPS will no longer have right to pass vote of no con­fi­dence on the Prime Min­is­ter but they could only im­peach. If Ba­sotho de­cide to vote for Prime Min­is­ter di­rectly they would be en­trust­ing the ex­ec­u­tive man­date to one per­son who shall be solely re­spon­si­ble for ex­ec­u­tive. In the cur­rent ar­range­ment the head of ex­ec­u­tive or­gan of state does not have pop­u­lar man­date in the true sense of the word.

In other words the right of cit­i­zens to put and re­move head of govern­ment is del­e­gated to the MPS who in many oc­ca­sions do not re­main loyal to their vot­ers. If peo­ple elect Prime Min­is­ter di­rectly will that not cor­re­late with the in­ten­tion of peo­ple when they go out to vote? Do peo­ple go out to vote for par­lia­ment or for ex­ec­u­tive? Look­ing at the con­tent of party man­i­festoes and in­deed what con­stituency can­di­dates also prom­ise, it is ba­si­cally the stuff for ex­ec­u­tive not par­lia­ment. MPS be­come pop­u­lar or un­pop­u­lar in their con­stituen­cies not for be­ing ac­tive in com­mit­tees and hold­ing govern­ment to ac­count but on how many de­vel­op­ment projects govern­ment has or not im­ple­mented in the con­stituency. In the cur­rent sit­u­a­tion, many par­lia­men­tar­i­ans de­fine their duty as be­ing loyal to the Prime Min­is­ter and as long as they do that, they see their political fu­ture guar­an­teed, but what about the du­ties of par­lia­ment? In fact why should MPS have to de­ter­mine the Prime Min­is­ter that cit­i­zens would not have?

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