MPs unite on constitutional changes

MPs unite on constitutional changes

… As they move to trim prime minister’s powers

MASERU – IN a rare show of unity the parliament this week unanimously approved a motion to pave way for a constitutional amendment that will significantly trim the prime minister’s powers.
The amendments to sections 82, 83 and 90 of the constitution are meant to stop a prime minister from advising the King to dissolve parliament when he loses a vote of no confidence.

It would appear that the changes are a precursor to the vote of no confidence some MPs want to use to topple Prime Minister Thomas Thabane.
Without the power to advise the King to dissolve parliament, Thabane will have to leave it to the MPs to elect his replacement. He will no longer resort to advising the King to call a fresh election once he has lost the parliament’s support.

There is however a self-serving agenda behind the proposed amendments in that they will ensure that MPs are not subjected to a new election once they push out a prime minister.
That means they are guaranteed to finish their terms even after toppling a prime minister and his government.

MPs have always worried that their fate is linked to that of a prime minister because he can dissolve parliament if they vote him out. That has been the concern of several government MPs who were inclined to support the motion against Thabane but were worried that they would fall with him.
MPs are now writing the Bill that is likely to be brought to parliament next week.

But to become law the Bill will need the support of two-thirds of the MPs.
Whether it meets that high threshold is unclear but the overwhelming support to the motion to bring the Bill could have encouraged those desperate to get it passed.
None of the MPs voted against the motion.
Even Deputy Prime Minister Monyane Moleleki said “yes”.

Yet the strong support for the motion does not necessarily mean it will smoothly sail through.
Loyalties and minds might change.
There could be some secret horse-trading before the vote.
With state resources, Thabane could dangle some carrots at MPs.
The vote could be seen as a warning sign to Thabane who has been battling to fend off unrest in both his party and the government.

If what happened in parliament is a sign of things to come then Thabane could be facing bumpy weeks ahead. Last night Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) leader, Adv Lekhetho Rakuoane, who filed the motion, was upbeat about the Bill’s chances of passing.
“The elections are themselves expensive coupled with the loans not paid back by the MPs,” Adv Rakuoane said.
He said MPs will now have a chance to repay their interest-free loans instead of relying on the government to bail them out when their terms end prematurely.
“Let’s not focus on the elections because if we do so, we will be unable to work for these poor people,” Advocate Rakuoane said.
“When the government changes, the MPs take more loans before paying the previous loans,” he said.

Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) leader, Mothetjoa Metsing, who seconded the motion, said the Bill should not be seen as targeting Thabane.
“When taking about the prime minister we are not referring to Thomas Thabane. We are referring to the prime minister in office at the time,” Metsing said.
“Let’s enact laws that our children will not wonder over.”
Moleleki said elections have impoverished the country.

“We need to tread carefully on this and talk to each other nicely as that will help us to sail through,” Moleleki said.
“Gone are those days that we did not care for each other as we thought we have numbers in the parliament.”

Thooe Ramolibeli

 

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