PM’S as­ser­tion in­ad­e­quate, flawed

Lesotho Times - - Leader - ut­loang ka­jeno

AT the height of the in­sta­bil­ity of the previous coali­tion govern­ment that was in power from May 2012 to April 2015, then leader of the main op­po­si­tion Demo­cratic Congress (DC) and now in­cum­bent Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili in 2014 thun­dered in one of his many fa­mous speeches that govern­ment could by law, be formed in par­lia­ment with­out the hold­ing of an elec­tion in the event of a no con­fi­dence vote.

In this speech, the then leader of the op­po­si­tion was ad­dress­ing the pos­si­bil­ity that the po­lit­i­cal par­ties of the congress for­ma­tion could co­a­lesce and un­seat the govern­ment of the day through a vote of no con­fi­dence with­out the coun­try hold­ing a snap gen­eral elec­tion.

Dr Mo­sisili was cor­rect. He was quot­ing sec­tion 83 of the Con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho that pro­vides among oth­ers :83(4) “In ex­er­cise of his pow­ers to dis­solve or pro­rogue Par­lia­ment, the King shall act in ac­cor­dance with ad­vise of the Prime Min­is­ter: Pro­vided that — (a) if the Prime Min­is­ter rec­om­mends a dis­so­lu­tion and the King con­sid­ers that the Govern­ment of Le­sotho can be car­ried on with­out a dis­so­lu­tion and that a dis­so­lu­tion would not be in the in­ter­ests of Le­sotho, he may, act­ing in ac­cor­dance with the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State, refuse to dis­solve Par­lia­ment; (b) if the Na­tional Assem­bly passes a res­o­lu­tion of no con­fi­dence in the Govern­ment of Le­sotho and the Prime Min­is­ter does not within three days there­after ei­ther or re­sign or ad­vise a dis­so­lu­tion the King may, act­ing in ac­cor­dance with the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State, dis­solve Par­lia­ment; and (c) if the of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter is va­cant and the King con­sid­ers that there is no prospect of his be­ing able within a rea­son­able time to find a per­son who is the leader of a po­lit­i­cal party or a coali­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties that will com­mand the sup­port of a ma­jor­ity of the mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly, he may, act­ing in ac­cor­dance with the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State, dis­solve Par­lia­ment.”

In ad­dress­ing the DC lead­er­ship con­fer­ence the PM how­ever, un­like in the past, upon re­al­iz­ing that the prospect of the loom­ing vote of no con­fi­dence was a sad re­al­ity, opted to leave out cer­tain salient pro­vi­sions of the Con­sti­tu­tion. Whether he left them out de­lib­er­ately or not we might never know.

These sub­sec­tions are the fol­low­ing, namely: (a) and (c).

Sub­sec­tion (a) pro­vides that if the PM rec­om­mends to the King that he dis­solves Par­lia­ment but that the King con­sid­ers that the govern­ment of Le­sotho can be car­ried on with­out dis­so­lu­tion and that a dis­so­lu­tion would not be in the in­ter­ests of Le­sotho, the King may, act­ing in ac­cor­dance with the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State, refuse to dis­solve Par­lia­ment.

This sub­sec­tion leaves the op­tion of dis­solv­ing Par­lia­ment to the King act­ing on the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State on tak­ing into ac­count the in­ter­ests of Le­sotho. My take re­gard­ing this sub­sec­tion is that the op­tion is left to the Coun­cil of State to ad­vice the King not to dis­solve Par­lia­ment in the in­ter­ests of Le­sotho.

I have no doubt in my mind that the pre­vail­ing cur­rent eco­nomic down­turn in Le­sotho, some of which have been brought about by the un­for­tu­nate poli­cies of the cur­rent coali­tion govern­ment, will bring to the con­sid­er­a­tion of the Coun­cil of State whether to ad­vise the King to dis­solve Par­lia­ment. Un­der the cur­rent eco­nomic down­turn in Le­sotho, it is in­con­ceiv­able that Le­sotho can af­ford another elec­tion moreso when there is an op­tion to re­sort to sub­sec­tion (c).

This nec­es­sar­ily leads me to sub­sec­tion (c) which pro­vides that if the of­fice of the Prime Min­is­ter is va­cant and the King con­sid­ers that there is no prospect of his be­ing able, within a rea­son­able time, to find a per­son who is the leader of a po­lit­i­cal party or coali­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties that will com­mand the sup­port of a ma­jor­ity of mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly, the he can dis­solve Par­lia­ment.

This is pre­cisely the sub­sec­tion that the PM was re­fer­ring to to­wards the end of 2014 when he said the Con­sti­tu­tion stip­u­lates that there might not be a need to dis­solve Par­lia­ment and hold a snap elec­tion if from within the ranks of in­cum­bent Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment (MPS) there is a leader of a po­lit­i­cal party or coali­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties that will com­mand the sup­port of ma­jor­ity of the MPS. Cu­ri­ously, this time around, he avoided men­tion­ing this to his au­di­ence, whether this was de­lib­er­ate or not is not clear.

What was lack­ing in the PM’S care­fully pre­pared speech was the crit­i­cal point that sub­sec­tion (a) and (c) are also sus­cep­ti­ble to two mean­ings that ob­vi­ate the need for the dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment.

Firstly, in terms of sec­tion (a) if the Coun­cil of State ad­vises the King that the life of Par­lia­ment does not end when there are com­pelling rea­sons in the in­ter­ests of Le­sotho, I reckon the pre­vail­ing eco­nomic down­turn is one such rea­son.

Two, this means that in terms of sub­sec­tion (c) the King might con­sider not to dis­solve Par­lia­ment if there is a leader of a po­lit­i­cal party or coali­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties that com­mands the ma­jor­ity of mem­bers of the Na­tional Assem­bly. This means there­fore that by pass­ing a vote of no con­fi­dence in his govern­ment does not in­evitably lead to dis­so­lu­tion of Par­lia­ment there are other op­tions that the PM avoided men­tion­ing. There might clearly be con­ti­nu­ity with this Par­lia­ment but with a new govern­ment.

Fur­ther the Prime Min­is­ter also left out, sec­tion 87(5) (a) which pro­vides that: “The King may, act­ing in ac­cor­dance with the ad­vice of the Coun­cil of State, re­move the Prime Min­is­ter from of­fice — if a res­o­lu­tion of no con­fi­dence in the govern­ment of Le­sotho is passed by the Na­tional Assem­bly and the Prime Min­is­ter does not

Con­tin­ued on page 14...

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