Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Beyond the Electoral Triumphalism: Reflections on Lesotho's Coalition Government and Challenges

Academic journal article Strategic Review for Southern Africa

Beyond the Electoral Triumphalism: Reflections on Lesotho's Coalition Government and Challenges

Article excerpt

1. Introduction: The 2012 election results

Among the 18 political parties which contested Lesotho's 26 May 2012 National Assembly elections, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) led by Thomas Motsoahae Thabane, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), by Mothetjoa Metsing and the Basotho National Party (BNP) under Thesele 'Maseribane's leadership fortuitously, yet neither unconstitutionally nor surprisingly, won governmental power and thus jointly rule the country as aptly a triumvirate. Until the actual voting day there was nothing discernibly common between any of these political parties. Indeed, they had squared up against each other as mutually hostile entities frantically trying to maximise their individual chances of winning the elections. Section 87(2) of the Constitution of Lesotho reads: "The King shall appoint as Prime Minister the member of the National Assembly who appears to the Council of State to be the leader of the political party or coalition of political parties that will command the support of the majority of the members of the National Assembly". With 30, 26 and five seats respectively in the National Assembly, the ABC, LCD, and BNP achieved the required absolute majority by one seat to claim governmental power. This development ended the one-party dominance that had been for decades a feature of Lesotho's democracy. Catapulted to state power by an overwhelming majority vote in previous elections, then ruling LCD was an unrestrained force. It used its parliamentary majority to forestall debates on important national issues and passed bills as law before they had been properly scrutinised by its opposition counterparts (Makoa 2005: 69).

The LCD lost governmental power in a bizarre fashion to a third of its splinter parties since being formed 15 years ago, the Democratic Congress (DC). Its erstwhile leader and then Prime Minister Mosisili, together with the majority of LCD members of parliament (MPs) resigned from the party and formed, inside the house of parliament in February 2012, the DC, which immediately took over the administration of the country as the ruling party. The LCD had similarly been formed in June 1997 to the chagrin of the opposition by the late Ntsu Mokhehle, then prime minister and leader of the then ruling Basutoland Congress Party (BCP), who continued to rule until 1998 under the banner of his newly formed LCD.

Together, the ABC, LCD and BNP captured 61 of the total 120 parliamentary seats, a minimum required to form government. After the elections results had been announced the ABC, LCD and BNP triumvirate presented itself as a coalition. The newly formed DC led by the former Prime Minister Pakalitha Bethuel Mosisili had won only 47 parliamentary seats. A coalition with the small political parties remaining outside the ABC, LCD and BNP partnership would yield only 59 parliamentary seats. Able to muster the number, the ABC, LCD and BNP thus coalesced into a bloc in accordance with the provisions of Section 87(2) of the constitution and claimed the governmental power that had clearly eluded the DC.

The three parties are in coalition of a type variously dubbed office-driven, office seeking or office-oriented, that is, the one that "is motivated by the quest for office", (Kadima 2006: 5) rather than by a convergence in parties' ideologies or policies--the payoffs, spoils or benefits being cabinet positions. The quest for office and state power was clearly the key motivation and a bond that holds the formation together. Not only have cabinet positions been shared among these parties but also some of the government ministries have been subdivided and parceled into separate ministerial units ostensibly to increase their number so as to meet the individual demands of the members of the triumvirate. The combined number of the coalition government's cabinet ministers and deputy ministers is a whopping 30, a far cry from the previous administration's 23 and thus a greater budgetary burden for a nation that is buffeted by grinding poverty. …

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