Shake-up for Lesotho

Shake-up for Lesotho

…Constitutional proposals could see radical changes in Parliament…

MASERU – LESOTHO could be set for major constitutional changes if the views that were gathered and submitted to the National Leaders’ Forum (NLF) are anything to go by.

In its sub-committee report read at the Multi-stakeholders Forum at the ’Manthabiseng Convention Centre yesterday, the NFL tabulated what Basotho want in the seven thematic areas.
The recommendations could result in radical changes in Parliament.
The NFL sub-committee said Basotho want the size of the National Assembly reduced from 120 seats to the original 80.

They also want the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral model abolished. That would mean a return to the First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral model.
The National Assembly consists of 80 MPs who are elected directly from the constituencies with another 40 getting into the House through the MMP model.

If implemented, the move could severely knock out fringe political parties that have relied on the MMP electoral model to sneak into parliament even when they command negligible support on the ground.
The NFL sub-committee also reported that Basotho want the law to spell out the minimum academic qualifications for MPs, suggesting that an MP must at least hold a bachelor’s degree.

The sub-committee said Basotho want the Prime Minister to be in office for only two terms of five years each.
They want the Prime Minister to resign immediately if he loses a vote of no confidence in parliament instead of rushing to the King to advise him to dissolve parliament and call fresh elections.
They want the King to have absolute authority to decide whether elections have to be called.

Basotho also want to curtail the Prime Minister’s powers to prorogue parliament but instead the constitution should regularise sessions of parliament.
Their wish is that parliament must not be dissolved before its tenure expires and its term should be five years.

They want the circumstances under which parliament may be dissolved to be stricter instead of the current state where the Prime Minister may just advise the King to dissolve parliament.
They want the prerogative to dissolve parliament taken away from the Prime Minister.

They also want parliament to formulate an impeachment law to deal with an errant Prime Minister without necessarily dissolving parliament.
Basotho have also expressed their unhappiness with the matter of floor-crossing in parliament. They want a standing order or an act of parliament that will require an MP to resign triggering a by-election in his constituency.
They also want the interest-free loans for MPs banned.

Political parties that intend to register with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) must have at least 5 000 members in their books.
That will likely whittle down the number of political parties in Lesotho. With just a population of about 2 million people, Lesotho has about 30 registered political parties.

Basotho also want the setting up of a Parliamentary Service Commission (PSC) to look into the conditions of service for MPs and their staff.
They also want Parliament to be in control of its own resources so that it will not be under any influence from the executive.
They want parliament to remain bi-cameral but the senate should be the house of experts and marginalised groups.

Principal chiefs, who are currently 22 in the 33-member senate, should not be senators according to the report.
If a chief is to be a senator, he should be elected, they say.
Appointment to the senate should be based on special expertise, Basotho say.
They also say a former Prime Minister and deputy must be barred from contesting elections.

In the constitutional reforms, Basotho say there is no need for the Prime Minister to appoint ministers based on their assumed expertise.
They say the powers of the Prime Minister may be limited procedurally and substantively.

A lot of powers on the appointment and removal of judges may be shifted to the newly reformed Judicial Service Commission.
They say there is no need for the King to appoint security chiefs instead the Prime Minister may remain as the commander-in-chief of the security agencies but the constitution must create a buffer structure like a security commission.

They want appointment of heads of oversight institutions taken away from the Prime Minister.
Basotho say the office of the First Lady should be abolished.
They said public funds should not be allocated to the office without an Act of parliament.

The dominant view from the public is that the King should be given more powers over the armed forces and the removal of a Prime Minister.
The sub-committee, however, warned that care should be taken that executive authority should continue to reside in the popularly elected public officials because of the principle of democracy.

Basotho say the dignified powers of the King must be kept but he must also be given powers to safeguard the interests of the country against the momentary excesses of politicians.
The report was compiled following interviews of Basotho on the reform process. The report was based on seven thematic areas: parliamentary, constitutional, security, political, judiciary, media and public service.

Staff Reporter


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