‘We need new Constitution to help manage coalitions’

‘We need new Constitution to help manage coalitions’

Rose Moremoholo

MASERU – A commissioner with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), Advocate ’Mamosebi Pholo, wants Lesotho’s electoral laws reformed to help address challenges of managing coalition governments.

Pholo was speaking at the opening of the Gender and Social Inclusion Policy and Electoral Law Reform workshop in Maseru on Monday.

“The constitution makes mention of coalition government but does not state how the coalition government will be formed, how it will operate, rights and obligations of the parties in the coalition and/or how it can be terminated other than running its full term,” Pholo said.
She said the emergence of coalition politics based on the 2012 electoral outcome resulted in a hung Parliament that severely challenged the political architecture of Lesotho.
“This meant that the election results could not be accommodated by the constitution and state institutions,” Pholo said.

She said “the constitutional architecture as it stands now cannot accommodate the management of the coalition government”.
Pholo said Lesotho’s electoral laws must be reformed not only to safeguard the compensatory mechanisms, “but also to address, as much as is legally possible, other loopholes in its MMP (Mixed Member Proportion) systems”.

Pholo said there are several areas in the electoral law that need to be reformed.
She said the political system, the Proportional Representation and Senate seats are increasingly being used by political parties to reward members who would have lost seats or have played significant roles to undermine a sitting government.

“Lesotho’s MMP electoral model while compensating for popular vote performance by each political party, has introduced new distortions that undermine democracy by inadvertently giving parties that have little voter support to hold at ransom those parties that have large following by unreasonable demands if they are to join in coalition,” Pholo said.
She said for instance there are parties that had two thousand people voting for them but they demand to have their leaders appointed ministers if they are to help form government.
“This unfortunate outcome is at variance with expected democratic norms and needs to be prevented through reforms,” Pholo said.

“Indeed Lesotho needs deep and radical reforms to curb the emerging lawlessness and violent conflict and to make progress to reverse extreme forms of poverty, hunger, disease, excessive infant deaths and high unemployment,” she said.
Pholo said failure to reform the legal system will cause more damage to the political landscape of the country than it is already experiencing.

“Political leaders should find in themselves the necessary political will to transform Lesotho away from the unsustainable politics of personal gain,” Pholo said.
Mette Bakke, a representative of the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance (International IDEA) said Lesotho has encountered a number of obstacles in its democratic projects following the political crisis of 2014 and the snap elections that followed in 2015.

“However, counter to the hopes and maybe expectations, recent developments have shown that the elections did not pave the way for political stability and democratic progress,” Bakken said.

Bakken added that however, the elections uncovered a number of challenges that ought to be further analysed in order to identify solutions that can ensure that future elections will remain genuine, credible, transparent, inclusive and peaceful.
“The period after an election, preferably when the next election is distant in time, is the most opportune time for electoral stakeholders to talk about and consider the need for electoral reforms,” Bekke said.

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