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‘Congress electoral pact violates MMP’

by Lesotho Times
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Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

The pre-election pact recently inked between three of the ruling parties, namely Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), contravenes basic principle of the electoral model adopted in Lesotho, according to analysts.

Lesotho uses the Mixed Member Proportion (MMP) electoral model which fuses both First-Past-the-Post and Proportional Representation (PR) models to allow smaller parties to have representation in parliament by way of compensatory seats.

The Lesotho National Assembly comprises of a total 120 seats out of which 80 of them are constituency based while the remaining 40 seats are PR.

But through the tripartite alliance forged by DC, LCD and PFD ahead of the 3 June 2017 snap elections, analysts say the basic principle of proportionality embedded in the MMP is violated in the sense that smaller parties will be “overrepresented” while big parties will be “underrepresented” in parliament.

Under the agreement of the three parties, the main-ruling DC will only field candidates in 54 constituencies out of a total 80 electoral constituencies nationwide, while the second major party LCD will have 25 candidates and PFD with one candidate.

But apart from deceiving the electoral model, analysts have also argued the pre-election pact has brought about confusion and disputations among the parties’ members, which could negatively affect their votes in the coming elections.

The Transformation Resource Center’s (TRC) Social and Environmental Justice head, Tsikoane Peshoane, argued the pact “mutilates or contravenes” the MMP model because the parties seek to have their representation in parliament through “rented” votes.

“If parties decide to have a pre-election pact, it means smaller parties are going to get rented votes. In other words, these are not their votes. They are overrepresented and that is a misrepresentation. That is deception to voters as well,” he said.

Mr Peshoane argued the deception was compounded by taking away the freedom of the people to vote for the party of their choice.

“This, as far as I am concerned, undermines and mutilates the model. I believe this decision was made at the top by the leadership of the parties and it is my contention that the decision is undemocratic.”

He said the alliance could affect the parties’ membership negatively “where electorate might retaliate by voting against their own individual parties”.

The party affiliations, he said, were still a very strong factor influencing the voting pattern in Lesotho.

“Basotho have not yet reached the political maturity of voting for individuals. This, obviously, is not going to go down well with some members, especially in bigger parties.”

Mr Tsikoane indicated the whole decision about the pre-election pact rested on the assumption that if the DC had not split from the LCD ahead of the 2012 elections, the latter could have won the polls, which were instead won by the now main opposition All Basotho convention (ABC).

“But here is the catch; those figures reflected in the 2012 elections have changed now because those figures are people and people are moving. “You cannot confidently say the LCD will get the same number of votes in the coming elections as they had in 2012. There are a lot of things that have happened in between; breakaways, floor crossings etc. Even from the opposition’s side, these things have occurred.

“For instance, in 2012 the LCD had 12 constituencies and most of them were in the same northern region, around Leribe. But two years down the line, which is in 2015, it lost 10 constituencies and only came with two of them. Where have the rest of the constituencies gone to? It’s because people have moved to other parties,” Mr Peshoane said.

The Lesotho Council of Non-governmental Organisations (LCN) Executive Director, Seabata Motsamai, argued for his part that while the decision was based on the assumption that the alliance would consolidate the parties’ numerical strength in parliament, it could fail dismally if the parties’ supporters were not convinced.

“Perhaps they are looking for a more stable parliament by constituting the majority in the National Assembly, which then translates to an equally stable government. But in my opinion, this could all go wrong if the three parties in the alliance cannot employ massive manpower to convince their supporters about this arrangement.

“As we speak, there is already confusion among their supporters regarding the alliance. You know even in a classroom where students are expected to have full attention span on the teacher, learners still fail examinations. What more with voters? As a social scientist, I can assure you no-matter how educated you are, you still experience anxiety once you get into the voting station. Let alone with our general population that does not have interest in many issues, including voter education. In this case, the probability of them winning is lower than that of losing the elections. This issue outweighs their assumptions,” he said.

According to Mr Motsamai, there were already disputations associated with the alliance ahead of the elections.

“Watch this space. You might have independent candidates who will amass support from these parties, especially the DC which is bigger than the two others,” he said.

For the alliance to succeed, Mr Motsamai said the parties needed to be working day and night to have a multiplier effect.

“They cannot only rely on rallies to achieve what they want. They need to have people they will pay to do the job, not volunteers. They need people who are fully dedicated to do that assignment,” he argued.

Political analyst, Nthakeng Pheello Selinyane, said the alliance’s intended goal of maximising seats could be achieved.

But Mr Selinyane’s worry was that from way back; “the main congress parties have been gaining less and less fractions of the total national votes”.

“Once you have considered that, you look at the fact that the LCD is likely to have shrunk significantly with the fact thatMr Selibe Mochoboroane took with him a significant portion from the party and formed his Movement for Economic Change (MEC).”

Mr Selinyane said prospects of the three parties winning in the constituencies where they could have won with their combined numbers in 2012 and 2015, were no longer realistic in the coming elections.

Meanwhile, a stalwart from one of the ruling congress parties, namely Basotho Congress Party (BCP), Dr Moyeni Mpobole, reiterated the assertion that the LCD would not have lost the elections in 2012 if the DC had not been formed.

He argued the LCD lost the 2012 elections to ABC because the latter took advantage of the split and won in constituencies that were supposed to have been won by LCD.

“If it was not because of the split, the ABC would have only won four constituencies in 2012. Combined, the DC and LCD are going to win many constituencies in the coming elections. They are going to attain around 70 parliamentary seats with ease,” he said.

However, Dr Mpobole was quick to indicate that the partnership of the LCD and DC intensified divisions within the movement “because it appears as if they are snubbing other congress parties”.

“We have other congress parties like the BCP, Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), Basotho National African Congress (BANC), Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP) and Lekhotla la Mekhoa le Meetlo, which should be included in the alliance.

“In my personal view, even if they cannot be included in the alliance, these other small parties that are not currently represented in parliament could be approached and asked not to contest the coming elections but give their votes to the alliance with a promise they would be compensated after the alliance has emerged victorious post elections.

“These small congress parties could be promised positions in the senate because we all have one common enemy and that is the opposition, which we refer to them all as nationalists. However, there are exceptions of PFD, National Independent Party and Marematlou Freedom Party which have partnered well with the congress parties in the outgoing government. But as we speak, it appears DC, LCD and PFD have distanced themselves away from the rest of us,” Dr Mpobole said.

The Lesotho Times’ repeated efforts to secure a comment from the alliance were unsuccessful until the time of going to print last night.

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