‘A coalition of the wounded’

MASERU — The newly formed Democratic Congress (DC) is a coalition of the wounded who will find it difficult to garner votes in this year’s general election, analysts have warned.

The analysts added Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili will find the going tough for his DC party because he lacked the charisma of Ntsu Mokhehle.

Mokhehle is a revered statesman who led a palace coup against the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) in 1997 to form the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.

In a case of history repeating itself, Mosisili last week dumped the LCD government and took with him 45 MPs to form the DC government.

The dramatic move dealt a fatal blow to the LCD government that had dominated Lesotho’s politics since 1997.

But analysts who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week said electoral success is not guaranteed for Mosisili in a general election that is expected in May.

They said the split will harm both the DC and the LCD.

“Mosisili is popular in the LCD and has built somewhat of an iconic status, his influence cannot be underestimated,” Tlohang Letsie, a political science lecturer at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), said.

“But, we should also remember that Mosisili is not Mokhehle.”

Mokhehle was a charismatic leader who led the BCP during its exile in the 1970s and only returned to Lesotho following the re-introduction of democracy in 1993.

He is still held in great awe within the congress parties because of his leadership skills.

Letsie said popular as Mosisili might be he will struggle to have the same impact that Mokhehle had after he broke away to form the LCD in 1997.

He added people should view Mosisili’s brave talk that he would win the May election as mere “election talk”.

“We’re going to see a huge shift in voting patterns,” Letsie said.

Lira Theko, who is the president of the Lesotho Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN), an umbrella body of civic societies, said victory is not guaranteed for Mosisili’s new party.

He said this is due to the calibre of people who defected to join the DC.

“The DC has many people who had lost the support of their constituencies. They are disgruntled individuals,” Theko said.

“They are people who are counting on Mosisili’s popularity to win elections. They expect that he will lobby people’s support on their behalf.”

Theko said we are likely to see a bitter fight for rural votes between the DC and LCD as both parties claim grassroots support.

He said the DC’s biggest test would be in claiming credit for and convincing voters that it, and not the LCD government, was responsible for bringing infrastructural development to their villages.

“The current LCD will simply have to use the achievements of the LCD government to win over voters,” he said.

Dr Motlamelle Kapa of the Department of Social Sciences at NUL said the split of the LCD does not spell the end for the former ruling party.

“The LCD will certainly pose tough competition for the DC especially because it still has functional structures,” Kapa said.

He said it was not a given that Mosisili will win the election.

“The new party is likely to win elections yes, but only by a slim margin.”

However, Nqosa Mahao, Professor and Executive Dean in the College of Law at the University of South Africa, said the split marked the beginning of the end for the LCD.

“I suspect that the LCD will soon be like the Basotho Congress party (BCP). Elections are won not by structures but with influence of state patronage,” Mahao said.

He said some MPs jumped ship because they knew they were not going to contest this year’s general election as they had lost primary elections.

On the DC’s prospects of winning the poll, Mahao said it is difficult to say for sure because of a host of variables at play.

“The first is the issue of limited time for the DC to campaign as well as endearing itself to urban voters who voted mainly for the ABC in 2007,” Mahao said.

“If there are parties that will win urban votes, the new party is in trouble because it relies heavily on rural votes bought by bags of mealie-meal.”

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