If coalition government partners, the All Basotho Convention (ABC) and Basotho National Party (BNP), continue to share public platforms ahead of the February 2015 poll, chances are the ABC will “cannibalise the BNP”, analysts say.
During a recent ABC rally held in Prime Minister Thomas Thabane’s Ha-Abia constituency, the two parties declared they planned to work together, although it is not clear if they would be forming an official alliance.
However, political analysts who spoke to the Lesotho Times this week, warn that as a bigger and more popular party of the two, if they are continuously seen together, members of the BNP might be tempted to defect to the Dr Thabane’s ABC—the major appeal being the fact that “the ABC’s presence is felt”.
The ABC and BNP, led by sports minister Thesele ‘Maseribane, are partners in the coalition government, which also comprises Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing’s Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). The three parties formed a government after the 26 May 2012 general election had produced a hung parliament.
Dr Motlamelle Kapa, Head of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies at the National University of Lesotho (NUL), cautions the BNP should watch out against being swallowed by the ABC “because people always want to be associated with political parties with clearer prospects”.
“There’s always a danger with political parties campaigning together, as chances are that the bigger one will no doubt, cannibalise the smaller one,” Dr Kapa says.
“It is therefore advisable that parties should campaign independently to convince voters of their worth, as individual political entities.”
He adds: “This could even lead to voter-apathy as hardcore supporters of such parties might even opt not to vote.”
But, Dr Kapa further notes, if the parties appear together in public on government business and not at party level “then there’s nothing wrong”.
Quizzed on the ABC’s prospects at the poll, Dr Kapa says the fact that the party still managed to increase its numbers before it became government, from 17 constituencies in 2007 to 26 in 2012, “the advantage of incumbency will increase its fortunes”.
“The ABC has been improving even without access to state resources and coverage by the state media,” Dr Kapa says.
“But their success will depend on how effectively they use resources at their disposal. The ABC should also be careful not to entertain internal squabbles the way the LCD has, to succeed.”
Mr Tsikoane Peshoane of the Transformation Resource Center (TRC) echoes Dr Kapa’s sentiments, saying being seen to be the ABC’s appendage “squanders the BNP’s prospects of growth”.
“The BNP’s strength lies in its rigorous youth membership, but does not seem to be very much concerned about growing its structures,” Mr Peshoane says.
“However, the party has maintained its position in the equation and the hard work done by its ministers has increased its fortunes.”
On the prospects of the BNP at the 2015 poll, Mr Peshoane asserts that although the party’s fortunes might have improved due to being part of government and having access to state resources “it will not win any constituencies”.
“It would be an exaggeration to assume the BNP will win constituencies in the coming election, because you don’t feel like it’s alive on the ground,” Mr Peshoane says.
“If anything, the BNP is likely to return as the underdog, especially if it continues to share public platforms with the ABC.”
He adds: “The party also does not have viable structures, which is weird because it is an old party.”
On the question of the ABC’s prospects, which won 26 constituencies in the last election, Mr Peshoane says although the ruling party is likely to draw support at the next poll “its success is solely dependent on leader Thomas Thabane”.
“The ABC is not necessarily a political party but a group of disgruntled people, who left their parties because of intra-party conflicts, and were drawn to the party by Thabane’s charisma and ideas,” Mr Peshoane says.
“Unlike the main opposition Democratic Congress (DC), the ABC is a movement and not a political party in the true sense, except for the fact that it has registered with both the Law Office and Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).”
He adds: “Thabane is the centre of the ABC and its prospects of winning are always dependent on him. The party has not consolidated itself sufficiently to function beyond Thabane. ”
Mr Peshoane adds for Dr Thabane to draw numbers in the coming election, he would need to point out why his government’s tenure was cut short by using “issues of corruption as his major draw-card”.
“The party will draw numbers because it still seems to enjoy support in the urban and semi-urban areas, as well as broad media coverage, centred on its leader’s major draw-cards, which include the uprooting of corruption,” Mr Tsikoane says.
According to the TRC Programmes Director, the ABC should be aware that if it performs well, it would not be because of its firm and functional structures “but because of its corruption message and the media coverage it gets”.
“Thabane will perform well in the coming election if he claims that he was hampered from completing his five-year tenure as premier, by alleged instigators of corruption, who the PM has claimed include Deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing,” Mr Peshoane says.
“Again, if the ABC can adopt the style of sowing propaganda, in a similar manner done by other parties, it is bound to do well.”