Parly ex­perts speak on new coali­tion

Lesotho Times - - News - Billy Ntaote

EX­PERTS in par­lia­men­tary pro­ce­dure say while there is no clear cut pro­ce­dure for the Na­tional Assem­bly speaker in the event of a change in the make-up of the House, he/ she should be “guided by com­mon sense” to in­form the Coun­cil of State and the King on any changes.

The role of the Na­tional Assem­bly speaker has come into the spot­light af­ter a fac­tion of the Demo­cratic Congress (DC) loyal to its deputy leader, Monyane Moleleki, and the tri­par­tite op­po­si­tion al­liance last week Thurs­day agreed on a coali­tion ar­range­ment meant to oust Prime Min­is­ter Pakalitha Mo­sisili’s seven-party government.

Un­der the pact with the All Ba­sotho Con­ven­tion (ABC), Ba­sotho Na­tional Party (BNP) and Re­formed Congress of Le­sotho (RCL), Mr Moleleki would lead the en­vis­aged government of na­tional unity (GNU) for the first 18 months be­fore chang­ing hands with ABC leader Thomas Tha­bane.

Dur­ing the press conference to an­nounce the pact, Mr Moleleki said the agree­ment had al­ready been sub­mit­ted to Na­tional Assem­bly Speaker Ntl­hoi Mot­samai with the ex­pec­ta­tion that she would in­form the Coun­cil of State and King Let­sie III to usher a change of government.

Mr Moleleki, who is also the Machache con­stituency leg­is­la­tor, has said 22 MPS have al­ready pledged their al­le­giance to him af­ter the DC Na­tional Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee with­drew from the coali­tion government ear­lier this month.

Dr Tha­bane’s ABC, which is the big­gest op­po­si­tion party, cur­rently has 46 MPS. Added with RCL and BNP law­mak­ers, the op­po­si­tion bloc con­sists of 55 MPS. At 77 seats, the coali­tion would con­sti­tute a ma­jor­ity in the Na­tional Assem­bly since the min­i­mum would be 61.

Ms Mot­samai last week in­def­i­nitely ad­journed the Na­tional Assem­bly to the cha­grin of op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors who ac­cused her of dodg­ing a pro­posed no-con­fi­dence mo­tion against Dr Mo­sisili’s government.

She also wrote let­ters to 13 op­po­si­tion MPS on 18 Novem­ber this year, re­quest­ing them to “show cause” why they should not be ex­pelled from the au­gust house for al­leged ab­sen­teeism with­out her per­mis­sion. The case is now be­fore the courts af­ter the op­po­si­tion leg­is­la­tors lodged an ur­gent High Court ap­pli­ca­tion chal­leng­ing the let­ters.

Con­tacted for com­ment yes­ter­day, Ms Mot­samai re­ferred the Le­sotho Times to Na­tional Assem­bly Clerk King’s Coun­sel Fine Maema who ac­knowl­edged re­ceipt of the coali­tion agree­ment.

How­ever, he said it was un­clear what would fol­low next af­ter the re­ceipt of the let-

ter.

For­mer Na­tional Assem­bly speaker Sephiri Motanyane said there was no cod­i­fied pro­ce­dure upon re­ceiv­ing a doc­u­ment such as a coali­tion agree­ment.

He, how­ever, said the speaker was guided by com­mon sense to in­form the Coun­cil of State and the King about any changes in the Na­tional Assem­bly as far as numbers re­quired to form a government are con­cerned.

“The King has to be in­formed by the speaker that the com­plex­ion in the house has changed and in­di­cate the nu­mer­i­cal strength changes on the side of those who were con­sti­tut­ing government and those who were in the op­po­si­tion bench,” said Mr Motanyane.

“If the num­ber of seats of a party or coali­tion de­cline and don’t make 61 seats any­more that means the sit­ting premier should re­sign.

In the mean­time, the King would ap­point him/her an interim prime min­is­ter while prepa­ra­tions for fresh elec­tions are be­ing made or prepa­ra­tions for a new government are un­der­taken.

“There can­not be a government that does not meet the con­sti­tu­tion­ally re­quired 61 seats in par­lia­ment, such a government will not be meet­ing the con­sti­tu­tional pro­vi­sions.”

He said when in­formed about changes akin to those sub­mit­ted by the DC and ABC al­liance, the speaker should as­sess the nu­mer­i­cal changes be­tween the government and op­po­si­tion side dur­ing a sit­ting of the House.

“The speaker should have the let­ter from those say­ing they have the nu­mer­i­cal strength and see this strength in its phys­i­cal form on the floor of the Na­tional Assem­bly,” Mr Motanyane said.

He said if there is no clear pro­ce­dure, the speaker could bor­row best prac­tices from other Com­mon­wealth par­lia­ments or African Union mem­ber states.

This was echoed by long serv­ing for­mer MP Sello Maphalla who said as a mem­ber of the Coun­cil of State the speaker is duty bound to in­form them so they can ad­vise the King on the changes in the Na­tional Assem­bly.

He said the only re­course for MPS who felt ag­grieved by the con­duct of a speaker was a vote of no con­fi­dence to re­move him/her from of­fice and in­stall one who served their in­ter­ests.

“The only chal­lenge now for the new al­liance is that the House was ad­journed and the par­ties will have to wait un­til it is re­con­vened for their nu­mer­i­cal strength to be seen,” he said.

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