How a coali­tion govt should be formed

Sunday Express - - OPINION - So­fonea Shale

THE an­nounce­ment that the Demo­cratic Congress-Le­sotho Congress for Democ­racy led al­liance courted the Mare­mat­lou Free­dom Party, Ba­sotho Congress Party ( BCP), Na­tional In­de­pen­dent Party (NIP), Le­sotho Peo­ple’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democ­racy (PFD) was re­ceived with mixed feel­ings with some ju­bi­lat­ing while oth­ers mourned. The rea­sons for th­ese dif­fer­ent re­ac­tions may equally be di­verse but it is not the sub­ject of this ar­ti­cle.

This ar­ti­cle looks at how things are done so as to con­trib­ute views to how the movers and shak­ers can use the peo­ple’s power for the ben­e­fit of the na­tion.

The cen­tral ques­tion, which can only be ad­dressed through re­flec­tion on what Ba­sotho have said ear­lier on the for­ma­tion of coali­tion gov­ern­ment is; how popular and demo­cratic are coali­tion gov­ern­ments formed af­ter elec­tions?

The for­ma­tion of a post-elec­tion coali­tion nor­mally comes as a re­sult of the fail­ure of sin­gle par­ties to form gov­ern­ment or be­come a strong voice in op­po­si­tion on their own. In other words, it is a tech­ni­cal man­date that par­ties seek af­ter the popular man­date they re­ceive has not given them what they wanted. The ques­tion lies in the ex­tent to which such a tech­ni­cal man­date, which is fully con­sti­tu­tional, can be seen as demo­cratic in the real sense?

Though Le­sotho has been faced by two coali­tion gov­ern­ments in a pe­riod of less than five years, a stan­dard pe­riod for the par­lia­ment in Terms of the Con­sti­tu­tion of the King­dom, use­ful ideas have been sug­gested on how to deal the in­tri­ca­cies of the coali­tion gov­ern­ment in Le­sotho.

When Tha­bang Kholumo MP for Qalo, pro­posed a mo­tion for the Na­tional As­sem­bly to dis­cuss the New Zealand re­port with the aim of iden­ti­fy­ing what Le­sotho can do to bet­ter man­age coali­tion gov­ern­ments, the 8th Par­lia­ment re­jected it.

The high pow­ered del­e­ga­tion of the gov­ern­ment of the King­dom of Le­sotho that went to New Zealand have not, in any clear man­ner, shared with Ba­sotho the con­tents of that re­port ex­cept through the civil so­ci­ety and me­dia ini­ti­ated pro­cesses.

This process re­sulted in a Com­mu­nity Voices Re­port col­lat­ing re­sponses of Ba­sotho on sev­eral ques­tions in­clud­ing the fol­low­ing; whether they pre­fer sin­gle party or coali­tion gov­ern­ments; whether coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions should be done in se­cret or be public knowl­edge; whether coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tion should be limited to party lead­ers, na­tional ex­ec­u­tives or party membership.

Though 56 per­cent said they pre­ferred sin­gle party led gov­ern­ments over the coali­tion gov­ern­ment, the re­al­ity is that it would be very dif­fi­cult to have for a sin­gle party to lead gov­ern­ment in Le­sotho for some time to come.

Per­haps it is the first ex­pe­ri­ence with a gov­ern­ment of many par­ties that in­forms this kind of re­sponse. Well over 68 per­cent have said that the post-elec­tion coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions should not be limited to po­lit­i­cal lead­ers. Strong views were ex­pressed that, at times, the elec­torate votes for a cer­tain party while de­lib­er­ately with­draw­ing sup­port for an­other. But when their vote is used to bring back to power or re­move a po­lit­i­cal party which they could have wanted out or in as the case may be, that be­comes a be­trayal. A to­tal of 78 per­cent re­jected the re­al­ity that ne­go­ti­a­tions be­come a pre­serve for lead­ers and ex­ec­u­tives. It may be in­ter­est­ing to look at the ex­tent to which the process so far re­flects the as­pi­ra­tions of the peo­ple.

The early an­nounce­ment of the DC-LCD led coali­tion gave the im­pres­sion that other pro­cesses will sim­i­larly be fast. How­ever, it looks like the an­nounce­ment of the cabi­net will take longer than an­tic­i­pated.

While it could prac­ti­cally be im­pos­si­ble to in­volve the rank and file in the ne­go­ti­a­tions in a di­rect man­ner, can the peo­ple know at least what par­ties are ac­tu­ally say­ing, de­mand­ing and promis­ing one an­other when they ne­go­ti­ate? Who is go­ing to pay for those prom­ises? Peo­ple or politi­cians ne­go­ti­at­ing be­hind closed doors?

Can the de­mands, par­tic­u­larly by smaller par­ties, be the rea­son why the cabi­net an­nounce­ment takes this long? The re­al­ity is that in the mis­ap­pli­ca­tion of the con­sti­tu­tion of Le­sotho, through a process that has been flawed since 1993, the prime min­is­ter has al­ready been in­au­gu­rated while his com­mand of the ma­jor­ity of Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment has never been es­tab­lished thus detaining the pre­mier. This is­sue was ad­dressed last week but surely it shall fur­ther be de­bated solely for the pur­poses of en­sur­ing that it forms part of the much needed re­forms. The pri­mary ques- tion is whether it is fair or not that a party with rel­a­tively big­ger sup­port and closer to form­ing gov­ern­ment than oth­ers be held at ran­som by the smaller par­ties.

Can the peo­ple know how much the smaller par­ties that in­tent to go to gov­ern­ment with DC-LCD are de­mand­ing? If, for ex­am­ple, by virtue of lead­ing po­lit­i­cal par­ties MPs whose par­ties have not even met the quota but got seats through dec­i­mal frac­tions de­mand cabi­net posts, seats in Se­nate and other ex­tra par­lia­men­tary po­si­tions, would it be fair not only to the big­ger par­ties but to the vot­ers? As­sum­ing that the hur­dles are fi­nally re­solved and the coali­tion gov­ern­ment cabi­net is an­nounced, will it be known to the public on what ba­sis par­ties agreed? When re­forms are done, one of them should be trans­par­ent and open ne­go­ti­at­ing process where po­lit­i­cal min­nows may still be checked by the vot­ers oth­er­wise they will call the shots way be­yond what they worth. Per­haps, it could be asked, why would rel­a­tively big par­ties choose a sin­gle big party led coali­tion gov­ern­ment on the one hand with a sin­gle big party led coali­tion of op­po­si­tion par­ties on the other over the grand coali­tion op­tion?

In any event, the first op­tion is not only ex­pen­sive in terms of de­mands, dif­fi­culty to man­age and in­her­ent po­ten­tial to cause in­ter­nal con­flicts with the lead­ing par­ties but also in terms of what it gives, it re­mains a slim ma­jor­ity. This sit­u­a­tion is equally the same even if big par­ties can swap po­si­tions, one in op­po­si­tion be­com­ing gov­ern­ment and one in gov­ern­ment be­ing op­po­si­tion.

Peo­ple want trans­par­ent coali­tion ne­go­ti­a­tions. Do not you think the best way to deal with this is to do what peo­ple de­mand?

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