Election a two-horse race with coalition parties in tow

 

UTLOANG  KAJENO

IMAGINE, after the 2015 election, Lesotho being run by a coalition of so-called small political parties that go on to appoint their leader, with cumulative numbers constituting the majority in Parliament.  Imagine the Council of State, chaired by His Majesty, giving the green light to such a coalition to form a government.

Can you also picture both the major political parties — in my book at least — Democratic Congress (DC) and All Basotho Convention (ABC), being elbowed-out of such a coalition.

To some observers and political analysts, this might sound as weird a proposition as having the coldest day in hell and not having it in Siberia, Russia.  However, this is a distinct possibility of the outcome of next year’s general election.  This is because of our accommodative and compensatory electoral system, and our Constitution. The mixed-member proportional representation (MMP) electoral system gives so-called smaller parties that did not garner enough votes to have representation in Parliament through our compensatory electoral model.

However, the caveat would be that, in forming government, these parties would need to have won a substantial number of constituency seats under the first-past-the-post (FPP) electoral model.

The Constitution states that a person or leader who commands the majority of the combination of Members of Parliament (MP’s) can be invited to form government. That is how Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was invited to form the government in 2012. This is done when there is no outright winner in a general election.

However, the first scenario of smaller political parties forming a coalition government is diminished by the fact that, in my humble view, we have two major political parties in Lesotho.

These are, as earlier pointed-out, DC and ABC. I am fortified in the above stated argument by the fact that the erstwhile third major political party, the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), has imploded before our very own eyes.

The fourth major political party, the Basotho National Party (BNP), has long been playing a peripheral role in the national political discourse of Lesotho. However, like the LCD of late, the BNP has been able to punch above its political weight only because its leadership has wisely seen it prudent to align the party with the ABC.  However, in all fairness to both the BNP and LCD, their hopes of winning any sizeable seats in next year’s polls are minimal.

The LCD, to its credit, performed admirably well in the 2012 general election. However, due to its parochial leadership, it has now been subsumed by the main opposition DC, its splinter group.

To its credit, the DC has managed to put the LCD as its human shield, so to speak, (the DC is using the LCD to fight its political battles) such that the LCD has been submerged under the much bigger, better-organised and better funded DC.

Every agenda the LCD was and is pursuing that is against the incumbent coalition government — which has for all practical purposes, ceased to exist in unison — has from the outset been the agenda of the DC.

It has now become virtually impossible for LCD members to distinguish themselves from DC members. In effect, parties that split three months before the general elections of 2012 have virtually become one political formation again. Indeed, everything the LCD does echoes the sentiments of the larger DC.

LCD members are finding it difficult to extricate themselves and their party from the DC.  Those with long memories will remember that in the 2012 general election, the objective of those who voted for the coalition government was to relentlessly vote the DC, that had so terribly mis-governed Lesotho, out of power. Now the LCD has connived to join forces with the DC, their erstwhile enemy. That is why the support base of the LCD, its integrity and image have diminished terribly. I will be vindicated in this view by the outcome of the 2015 poll.

To add insult to injury, in June this year, the LCD declared its political marriage with the ABC-BNP coalition to have ceased. It subsequently declared its political marriage with the DC. Only to prevaricate again to co-habit again, so to speak, with the ABC-BNP alliance.

This prevarication and movement by the LCD back and forth, between the ABC-BNP and DC political formations only lends credence to the widespread belief that the LCD is, in effect, the DC under a different guise.

The LCD certainly looks like it is pursuing the agenda and philosophy of the DC. It needs no rocket scientist to fathom that the DC has largely been discredited by most voters. This is likely to result in an unfortunate domino effect on the LCD.  Hence its fast dwindling support within the electorate.

Worryingly for the LCD, and lending credence to recent rumours, it is suspected that some members of the LCD in cabinet, grassroots party structures and its National Executive are not in agreement with the agenda the party leadership is pursuing in relation to the coalition partners in government.  The rumours go on to predict that a splinter group is going to emerge from within the LCD structures because some prominent members of that party are disillusioned and dissatisfied with the party’s current leadership.

If these rumours are true, the LCD, fractured as it already is, could be heading ominously towards another split, thereby diminishing its support base further.

 

Furthermore, if these rumours are true and become a reality, this LCD splinter group is going to break-away with a sizeable chunk of the LCD support base in the highly likely event of a coalition government, post 2015 elections. This is the group that is likely to coalesce with the ABC-BNP and presumably, PFD, coalition.  Mind you, three months in politics prior to elections is adequate time to garner enough votes.  Remember the DC did admirably well in 2012 despite being in existence for only three months.

The BNP, to its credit, after not having performed well in the 2012 general elections, has been endowed with a charismatic young leader with foresight and vision, who made sure that despite its junior status within the coalition government, stayed the course with the larger, more-organized ABC, during the final months of the turbulent coalition government.

These moves by the BNP, coupled with their tough stance on corruption, have struck a favourable chord with the hitherto sceptical electorate.

This perception and, indeed, the BNP’s demonstrable public stance in the court of public opinion has the potential to garner the party a few more seats under the compensatory model in the next poll, thereby adding to their tally.

This scenario leaves only two major parties that need to set in motion their political acumen and begin political horse-trading to cobble-up a viable and sustainable coalition government.

I am predicting a coalition government largely because our political landscape and dynamics as well as our mixed-member proportional representation and compensatory, plus first-past-the-post electoral system, is so complex, that it cannot ensure a single party majority.  Both potential governments, either led by the ABC or the DC will inevitably be coalition governments.

 

There can never, for now, be an outright winner. We are still heading for the same hung parliament without an outright winner. Both parties, ABC and DC, will have to start cobbling-up a potential coalition government, come 2015.

Strangely but true to form, the major support base of either party is centred on the geopolitical landscape of the country and its terrain as well as its topography.  The support base of the ABC, on the one hand, is mostly in the urban and peri-urban lowland areas of the country.  On the other hand, the majority of potential voters for the DC and its support base is in the rural, mountainous and rugged areas of the country.

Unfortunately, for some imperceptible reason, neither party seems to have in the foreseeable future, made any meaningful in-roads into the electoral support base of the other party.

The up-coming elections are, therefore, a two-horse race between the ABC and the DC. The final result, an inevitable coalition government, all depends on which party has more astute and skillful political horse-traders to come-up with a viable and sustainable coalition government with the small parties for the long-term benefits of this impoverished nation.

The electoral ball has started rolling now. It is up to the major role players to take up the cudgels. Go out to the voters. Reach out to them with manisfetos and promises that can be accomplished. At the end of the day, may the coalition government that has the best long-term interest of the Basotho prevail.

This impoverished nation deserves better to take its rightful place among the international community of stable and prosperous nations. May the electorate be the final arbiter and winner.

 

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