Lesotho – Time to address political instability

SANF 17 no 24 – by Kizito Sikuka 
Speaker after speaker spoke from the same script at the inauguration of Thomas Thabane as the new Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Lesotho.

The message was that it was time Lesotho found a lasting solution to its political instability and ensure that the country focuses more on socio-economic development.

Lesotho has experienced recurring political instability since 2012, and has held three national elections within five years.

The elections were prompted by votes of no-confidence passed on the respective Prime Ministers by the Parliament.

Speaking soon after being sworn in as the new Prime Minister on 16 June, Thabane said the recent election should finally promote cooperation among all Basotho to find a lasting solution to the challenges facing the country.

“We need to rescue Lesotho from the current downward spiral into lawlessness, conflict, political instability, stagnation, and degradation of democracy, to work for lasting peace and stability of the nation; and to lead the nation on the path of reconciliation and unity.

“Let us all support this government to create an enabling environment for Lesotho to become a lawful country,” he said, adding that no Basotho will be left out in the rebuilding process.

He assured Basotho that his government “will be for Basotho without any form of discrimination, a government that is committed to Rule of law, rebuilding and strengthening of the pillars of democracy, and abhors corruption in all its forms.”

The SADC Chairperson, King Mswati III of Swaziland concurred, saying peace and security are cornerstones for regional integration and development.

“There is need for economic reforms, not only in Lesotho but by the whole SADC region in order to improve the lives of our people,” King Mswati said in a speech read on his behalf by Swazi Prime Minister, Barnabas Dlamini.

The SADC chair paid tribute to the critical role played by the region in mediating in the Lesotho political situation through its facilitator, the South African Deputy President, Cyril Ramaphosa.

The Zambian President, Edgar Lungu, who was also present at the inauguration ceremony, said the destiny of Lesotho can only be truly achieved if Basotho take an active role in shaping their own future.

“Democracy is a very expensive game, but I will leave it up to you the people of Lesotho to decide how best to make democracy a bit cheaper so that you can focus resources to develop this country,” Lungu said.

Thabane was elected Prime Minister after his All Basotho Convention (ABC) won a total of 48 seats compared to 30 garnered by the then ruling Democratic Congress (DC) led by immediate past Premier Pakalitha Mosisili.

According to final results released by the Lesotho Independent Electoral Commission, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy won 11 seats, Alliance of Democrats (9), Movement for Economic Change (6), Basotho National Party (5); and the Popular Front for Democracy (3).

The Reformed Congress of Lesotho, National Independent Party, Democratic Party of Lesotho, Marematlou Freedom Party and the Basutoland Congress Party all got one seat each.

Lesotho has a bicameral Parliament consisting of a Senate with 33 seats and a National Assembly with 120 seats, and as per the Constitution, a winning party should attain at least 61 seats to form a government.

In this regard, the ABC formed a coalition government with the Alliance of Democrats, Basotho National Party and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

The coalition by the four parties has reversed the result of an election held in 2015 when the DC ousted the ABC by uniting with smaller parties to pass a vote no-confidence in Thabane.

Most election observers, including the SADC Election Observer Mission (SEOM) and African Union Election Observation Mission, said Lesotho’s national parliamentary elections held on 3 June were in conformity with regional and continental standards and principles.

The elected Members of Parliament are expected to serve a five-year term.

However, Mosisili has raised concern over the way the elections were conducted, claiming that the electoral process was rigged in favour of Thabane.

He has called for the intervention of SADC to carry out a forensic audit of the elections and subsequently facilitate the establishment of a unity government.

Members of the Lesotho National Assembly are elected by direct popular vote using the mixed member proportional system.

Under this system, 80 parliamentarians are chosen in single-member constituencies using the First-Past-The-Post system while the remaining 40 are elected from one national constituency using party-list Proportional Representation.

The latter is used to determine the number of seats each party would receive if the system was fully proportional.

The total number of votes cast on the party ballot is divided by the 120 seats at stake in the National Assembly to determine how many seats each party deserves to receive.

This number is then compared to the seats a party won in the constituency list to determine how many seats it should be awarded in the party list. sardc.net

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