New law to clamp down on floor crossing

New law to clamp down on floor crossing

MASERU – PARLIAMENT is working on a new law that will give MPs only a 15-day window period to cross the floor during their five-year tenure.
The law will also block the MPs from crossing the floor in the first three years of their term. Those that want to change their political allegiance before or after the 15-day window will have to seek re-election through a by-election.
The National Reforms Authority (NRA)’s law draftsmen are already working on the law which is expected to be passed when MPs return from the winter break next month. The law is based on public views gathered during the NRA’s consultative meetings as part of the ongoing reform process.

The meetings revealed that an overwhelming majority of Basotho had become weary of MPs crossing the floor and toppling governments without consulting their constituencies.
They said they wanted MPs to subject themselves to a fresh election and seek a new mandate if they want to change political parties.
The NRA’s Parliamentary Affairs Committee chairman, Tšitso Cheba, told stakeholders at the constitutional amendments’ indaba on Tuesday that the proposed law reflects the will of the people.
Cheba, who is also the secretary-general of the Democratic Congress (DC), said the people want governments that are not felled at the whim of a few MPs who change political allegiance.

“With this law, parliaments will be stable,” Cheba said, adding that the floor-crossing season will be announced by the Speaker.
If the 15-day-window passes without any MP crossing the opportunity will be lost for good, he said.
“That is what we have agreed on.”
Speaking at the same forum, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) spokesman, Montoeli Masoetsa, said they “debated the issue at length and made a decision that there should be a window period for floor-crossing”.
Mafiroane Motanyane, the NRA boss, said the law will stipulate that any MP who crosses before or after the declared 15-day window period will have to vacate their office.

“There will be a by-election in their constituencies so that the people give them a fresh mandate,” Motanyane said.
“This allows those who want to leave to do so.”
Floor-crossing is a popular but contentious issue in Lesotho.
Those who support it say it’s part of a vibrant democracy and keeps governments on their toes.
Those against it argue that it destabilises the government and gives too much power to politicians who can decide to change political allegiance without consulting their voters. Since 2012 MPs have used their floor-crossing to topple governments.

Most of the floor crossings are not based on ideological or policy differences but political expedience often informed by a quest for power, revenge and personal squabbles.
The result has been expensive elections that have cost the country more than a billion maloti, wobbling governments and creating perennial political instability that have stalled economic growth and sabotaged government policies.

In their paper titled “Impact of Floor Crossing on Party Systems and Representative Democracy: The case of Lesotho” Dr Khabele Matlosa and Dr Victor Shale said floor-crossing was the bane of Lesotho’s politics.
The academics said floor-crossing, “although permissible constitutionally, undermines the country’s representative parliamentary democracy”.
They also found that it “is also a clear manifestation of Lesotho’s fragmented party system which is not sufficiently robust for the institutionalisation of democracy”.
“It, therefore, reinforces the fragility of the country’s democracy, since the country’s historic political transition of 1993,” they said.
Dr Matlosa and Dr Shale noted that floor-crossing in Lesotho happens without the consent of the rank and file membership hence some observers see it as unfair and a betrayal of the voters.

“A general election result can easily be altered by elite pacts and realignment of power in the national assembly.”
“When MPs cross the floor of parliament, they are not compelled to consult their constituencies in advance and neither are the MPs compelled to seek a new mandate after crossing the floor.
“This situation undermines the vertical accountability of MPs to the electorate.”
“This situation may generate a legitimacy crisis for the MPs in the eyes of the electorate,” it reads.
“This trend, may, in turn, result in declining public trust in the MPs and the parties.”

Available data from Afrobarometer surveys suggest that public trust in political parties is declining in all SADC countries.
Last year an Afrobarometer survey found that only 20 percent of Basotho have trust in parliament.

Nkheli Liphoto

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