Too many parties for Lesotho

Too many parties for Lesotho

The proliferation of political parties in Lesotho is a real cause for worry for us as a newspaper. Hardly a year passes without a new political party being formed.
At the last count Lesotho had close to 25 political parties. We are convinced that more parties are set to be launched as we march towards a possible general election later this year.

For a small country with less than a million eligible voters we find this phenomenon quite odd. But critics will argue the proliferation of political parties is a sign of a thriving democracy. We disagree with that view. On the contrary we also think the number of political parties in Lesotho is a sign of an ailing democracy. There is certainly something wrong with the manner we manage and run our political parties.

One such issue is the clear lack of internal democracy within political parties.
We know that political parties are ‘commandist’ by nature. They leave little room for dissension. They are top-down and operate more like military organisations. You either toe the line or walk. With little room to express a contrary position to the party president, there is bound to be tension and conflict leading to the formation of new political parties. That does not seem to be a plus for our democracy. This is because most of these small parties hardly command any notable votes during elections. Yet, we accommodate them during elections. We appear to have become so obsessed with politics at the expense of everything else that matters.

We seem to see political parties as vehicles for accumulation of power and economic resources. That is why some of our leaders seem to think they can only get closer to the cookie jar when they form political parties. We need to move away from this faulty thinking. Apart from a collective urge to get into power, there appears to be nothing among the plethora of parties that divides them apart from a fierce will to win political power. We remain no wiser as what most of these smaller parties stand for. But what is clear is that what divides us are not clear ideological differences.

We still have no idea what the Congress/Nationalists parties stand for ideologically, apart from the fact the two sides fought a bruising battle for political supremacy in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Because we see political parties as vehicles for the accumulation of financial resources and power, we have raised a generation of youths who are obsessed with political parties at the expense of driving economic change. That to us is tragic. Politics should not be seen as a job. It kills innovation and independence. Our youths must be encouraged to pursue projects that drive economic change. The obsession with politics should be discouraged.

The Law Office must also raise the threshold of qualifications that enable individuals to register political parties. The requirements must be more stringent so that only those parties that command a truly national appeal get registered. We are of the opinion that it is an exercise in futility to register a political party only because the individuals behind the party want it registered.  The onus is on the new party to provide evidence that they command significant numbers to warrant registration of a new party.

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