Our electoral system is not broken

Our electoral system is not broken

THERE was a recent message asking selected groups that have not submitted their opinions to the reforms to have their say.
The deadline for submissions, according to the message, was stated as 22 July 2019 (Monday). I am sure over the past few weeks the reforms team has received an avalanche of contributions from those groups.
There is also a likelihood that during the debates and discussions that will follow more views will be gathered. The opportunity for people to have their say on what they want in the reforms therefore remains open.

While it is true that the deadline for submissions has lapsed I firmly believe that it’s not too late for people of this country to add their voices to the making of the Lesotho they want now and in the future.
My contribution is directed towards the thematic area titled “Reforms to the functioning of the political system and constitutional arrangements.”
Linked to this is what the document says will be “measures to enhance political stability including those to bring parliamentary practice into line with MMP system (particularly relating to representation, political parties and government formation.”

I was fortunate to be a delegate in the first plenary session of the reforms.
Although that is where my journey ended the platform was crucial because it helped me get an idea of what some people wanted removed or included in the reforms.
One contentious issue seems to be the practicality or relevance of the Mixed Membership Proportional Representation (MMPP).
The argument was whether the system still works for Lesotho or we should switch to pure Proportional Representation.

My argument then and now is that the MMPP is still useful but we only need to relook at the floor-crossing and the thresholds for party registrations with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).
It is important to go back in history to understand how we ended up adopting the MMPP model. After the 1998 election descended into turmoil that led to dozens of deaths.  Shops were looted and buildings burnt but ashes.
The source of the chaos was allegations that the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) had rigged the election.

After SADC intervened it was suggested that our electoral system be changed from First Past the Post to MMPP. At that time it was thought that this would be a panacea to our recurring political troubles.
The idea was to accommodate the minority parties marginalised by the First Past the Post system.
One would have thought the inclusion of the motinyanes, (name used to refer to smaller parties), would lead to peace and tranquillity in Lesotho by making our parliament a little more inclusive.

Unfortunately in the next elections in 2007, the model proved to have its own flaws that rendered it a threat to the peace.
However, another SADC intervention ensured that the threat was curtailed in the 2012 election by the use of one ballot instead of two.
This is where the problems of the electoral model ended or at least seemed to have hibernated.

But it was also the birth of a new and more troublesome era of coalition governments. Having explained the history, I wish to get back to my main point which is my contribution towards constitutional reforms.
There is no doubt that all electoral models have advantages and disadvantages.

It is my humble submission that we stick with the MMPP despite its shortcomings.
I am of the opinion that pure proportional representation will bring us more harm than good.
My fear of a pure proportional representation model stems from the catfights that have characterised the MMPP.
The unregulated manner in which the proportional lists are drafted has created new problems. It is often alleged that the leader, national executive lieutenants and friends place themselves at the top of the lists.

There have been allegations that relatives, boyfriends and girlfriends of those in the echelons of a party are finding their way on the list ahead of deserving party members.
The question we should thus ask is: if people can fight for just a meagre unguaranteed forty spots how intense will be the fight if all seats are allocated through the proportional model?
My other argument is that the allocation of proportional seats in Lesotho has shown a lot of bias with regard to representation by district.
For example, in the current parliament there are about twelve political parties.

With the exception of the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL), none of the parties have a proportional representative member from the district of Mohale’s Hoek.
I am excluding RCL because its representative is its leader.
If this was pure proportional representation it would mean the district of Mohale’s Hoek would not have any one person representing their interests in such a parliament. With regard to the party registration threshold, I think the 500 minimum members needed to register a party is too low. This is the main reason why we have so many political parties that fail to garner enough votes for a measly one seat in parliament.

I suggest that we change from the 500 threshold and use the threshold that was used by the IEC in the allocation of seats in the previous election.
That way, we are at least striving for the formation of a political party that has potential to be in parliament. But having said that I still believe it is important to note is that the major problem Lesotho is facing is not necessarily her skewed or inadequate laws. Instead, the cancer that is eating away the peace and stability of Lesotho is her politicians and their reluctance to change the way they tackle public affairs.
In essence, what Lesotho really needs is for politicians to change their ways. Otherwise even the best legislation will not be of any use.

Kelello Rakolobe

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