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Better parliaments for stronger democracies

by Lesotho Times
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ALL those democrats of the 7th Parliament, under the Congress government, who took the parliament of Lesotho to new heights to be a member of the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU) deserve some decoration by His Majesty.

The IPU is a forum of world democratic parliaments.
To be a member, a national parliament and the State have to indeed be democratic.
The role of the IPU is to promote and defend democracy as well as help towards building strong parliamentary institutions.
It even represents parliamentary interests in the work of the United Nations.

Members of Parliament are under constant pressure to improve their performance in matters of parliamentary democracy.
Inclusion of MPs in State delegations to the UN sessions is another IPU yardstick of measuring how parliament relates with the executive it has to oversee.
Lesotho’s parliament ought to take the initiative to ensure that it gets included in delegations to the UN. That would be an achievement before the IPU.
One feature which distinguishes the IPU from other world parliamentary organisations is the frequency of changes in the member of its member parliaments.

In 2009, it had 151 member parliaments; in 2010 it had 155 while in 2012 it had 162. These statistics signify the growth of democracy.
The decline in numbers is largely due to disqualification of members failing democratic codes and norms or to pay annual subscriptions.
Disqualified parliaments have to re-apply for re-affiliation and convince the IPU that they have mended their undemocratic ways.
The IPU does not compromise standards or condone undemocratic actions by member parliaments.
Currently, the IPU has a strategy for the 2012-2017 period, adopted in September 2011, with delegates form Lesotho also in attendance.

By default, this corresponds with the term of the 8th Parliament. One of the key objectives is to strengthen democracy through parliaments by engaging member parliaments to improve their structures and performance.

IPU holds bi-annual meetings of members where each member parliament shares its experiences and also learns from others.
All the forgoing mention is intended to be a challenge to Lesotho to assess the current state of affairs of the 8th Parliament.
How is it working towards the attainment of the above IPU objective to strengthen democracy through parliament?
One indicator of an effective parliament is how it exercises oversight over the executive. The previous parliaments established portfolio committees to improve oversight.
Prorogation of parliament has now caused this mechanism to miscarry. This is a set back.

Prorogation is not designed to choke a system. Until February 2015, Lesotho parliament shall not be functional; while the executive shall remain a lone runner in this nine month marathon.
Meanwhile, the important business of parliament, which was pending, has been killed by this prorogation. Every cloud has a silver lining. The current generation of voters are watching.
They saw the coalition government emerge with all that goes with it; they now see an unprecedented nine month prorogation.
They are watching whether or not the Namibia muti will shorten it.

In the event it ends in February 2015, as gazetted, we expect to see whether or not what necessitated this prorogation shall have not deepened its roots.
Chances are, at that point, it may be extended, and that will be sad.

This is the kind of Lesotho parliament under the first coalition government. The begging question is whether the electorate is to blame for this chaos or the 8th Parliament. Maybe the blame should lie with another entity.

Chances are the electorate will have the final say, at the appropriate time. One good aspect or lesson of the 8th Parliament is its success in enlightening the nation about coalitions which the constitution provides for.
This is especially after the New Zealand lessons where coalitions support the most popular party and not vise versa. Ours is a clear example of an experiment gone wrong. Deliberate exclusion of the powerful has proved to be a joke.
Democracy is not a game of jokes, chess or scrabble.
The current mess or good, depending on who the on-looker is.

It is a potential subject of debate by the Association of Secretaries General of Parliaments (ASGP) as an IPU think-tank which member parliaments may tap to obtain best practices to improve home parliaments.
The onus should not to be on members of parliament alone. The addition of good human resources can better a parliament.

Staff could be better positioned to continuously orient MPs on new parliamentary trends to better their parliament for strong democracy in Lesotho.

  • Honourable Makhabane Maluke is the Bobatsi Number 80 Constituency Member of Parliament and belongs to the main opposition Democratic Congress.

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