‘Elections route not necessary’
THE Alliance of Democrats (AD) has written a letter to National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai to officially notify her of the party’s existence. The AD was formed last December by Machache constituency legislator Monyane Moleleki after parting ways with the main ruling party, Democratic Congress (DC), of which he was the deputy leader.
Submitted to Ms Motsamai’s office last Friday, the letter was signed by AD Secretary-General Mokhele Moletsane. It also informs the speaker of the intention of AD legislators to cross the floor from the government’s side to the opposition when parliament reconvenes tomorrow.
Prior to leaving the DC last November, Mr Moleleki and the bulk of the party’s national executive committee, “pulled out” of government and inked a coalition agreement with the tripartite opposition alliance to oust the seven-party government.
Under the pact with the All Basotho Convention, Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho, Mr Moleleki would head the coalition for the first 18 months in the event they form government.
Lesotho Times (LT) reporter, Lekhetho Ntsukunyane, speaks with Mr Moletsane about the details of the letter and related issues in this interview.
LT: What was the purpose of the letter?
Moletsane: The letter informs the speaker about existence of the new party, Alliance of Democrats (AD), under the leadership of Ntate Monyane Moleleki – a member of parliament for Machache Constituency. Secondly, the letter informs her that some other AD members are also MPs. Obviously, if the AD is led by Ntate Moleleki and I wrote the letter as secretary-general of the same party, and also an MP for Matsieng constituency, then it means the AD has more than one legislator in the National Assembly. The letter also informs the speaker that all MPs who support the AD will stand up when parliament resumes business on Friday and cross the floor from the government side to join the opposition. We are very much clear in the letter that we will be crossing the floor from the government side to the opposition.
LT: What do you expect from the speaker after writing the letter?
Moletsane: Our expectation is that, on Friday, the speaker will read the letter before the National Assembly and then give us a moment to exercise our constitutional and democratic right to cross the floor.
LT: Can the speaker decide against reading the letter and allowing you to cross the floor?
Moletsane: We are not expecting her to be silent about the letter. I indicated in the letter that I would await her advice, which means if ever she may have reservations about the letter, she can discuss that with me so that I can explain it. If there are procedural issues she needs to have addressed regarding the letter, surely she will invite me to her office so that I can address her concerns. Also for my part, I intend to keep contact with her as a follow up to say ‘I wrote the letter to your office, what should I expect on Friday?’ We don’t want any surprises on Friday. Our main business as AD legislators is to cross the floor come Friday. We are determined to do that. It is a mandate from our supporters that we cross the floor on Friday. They will want to witness that. Even the whole nation is expecting that to happen on Friday. The speaker will definitely have to read that letter and allow us to cross the floor; there is no other procedure except that.
LT: There is confusion over how many MPs will cross the floor with the AD from the government to opposition. Are you in position to give us the exact number, or are you keeping this as a surprise?
Moletsane: Unfortunately, the issue of crossing the floor is based purely on individual choice. So, I cannot give the number lest I make a big mistake. We may say we are 30 or any other big number only to find that some people have chickened out at the last minute. We should leave room for anything to happen. The worst case scenario would be if we have only two MPs crossing. We can only count the numbers and be sure of them after that process is completed. Having said that, we should bear in mind that only constituency MPs are allowed to cross the floor.
LT: Having said that, what can we expect from proportional representation (PR) MPs supporting the AD since they cannot cross the floor on Friday?
Moletsane: Every MP has a right and discretion to support any vote in parliament, regardless of party lines. In other words, the PR legislators who support the AD but cannot cross the floor will still vote with us. That is the expectation. So whether they cross the floor or not that is not a serious matter. What I can confirm is that we are going to have people from the government’s side voting with the AD and the opposition. Surely that will happen.
LT: You have already said you will be crossing the floor from the government’s side to the opposition. What will be the implication of such a move on the incumbent government?
Moletsane: The current government was formed by a coalition of seven parties with 65 seats in parliament. However, we have been talking outside parliament that the government has since lost many seats recently. But that can only be tested in parliament. It is imperative to wait until Friday to assess whether the government still has 65 seats or not. What I am sure of is that the government won’t have 65 seats after the (floor crossing) process on Friday. Everyone will be able to literally see numerous gaps in the seats on the government side as we cross the floor to the opposition on Friday. Every Mosotho will bear witness to that. I hope the national television will be there for Basotho to see the real picture. The numbers will tell whether we still have a legitimate government or not.
LT: Dr Mosisili’s stance has been clear that he would advise King Letsie III to dissolve parliament and call for elections in the event the no-confidence motion succeeds. Are you prepared for elections as the AD?
Moletsane: We are very ready for elections. We have people ready to vote for the AD in the event of snap elections. Our membership is growing with each moment we are out there selling our message. But, even though we are ready, the more crucial question is whether Lesotho is ready for elections? We have registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) because we want to contest in elections. So, we were ready the minute we registered. But does Lesotho, as a country, need elections now? This is not an issue of the AD or any individual political party. It is a national issue which needs a debate. At that national level, the AD says Lesotho does not need elections. Our understanding of elections is that they can be called if parliament fails to form government. Elections are too expensive to be called just to rescue an individual running away from the fact that his government no longer has the majority in parliament. Elections should be the last resort where parliament fails to produce a government. Elections are a mechanism used by the nation to assist parliament form government after parliament itself has failed to do so. In our case as the opposition, we are ready to form government because it has the numbers to do so. There is no need for elections.
Section 83 of the Constitution of Lesotho explains that during a no-confidence motion, especially where such a motion defeats the incumbent prime minister, the King has powers to dissolve parliament. But for the King to do that, he will be advised accordingly by the prime minister himself. The King has discretion to align himself with the prime minister’s advice or not. As the King exercises his right over this matter through the advice of the Council of State, he considers whether the government of Lesotho can continue without the dissolution of parliament which leads to elections. If there is a possibility for government to carry on, why should parliament be dissolved? It is for us, as the opposition, to demonstrate to His Majesty, the Council of State and the nation that we can carry on with the government because it is not in the interest of the country to go for elections since we don’t have the money.
Our message is very clear to the Council of State, that they should, on behalf of the nation, advise His Majesty accordingly. Secondly, our message is that, as the opposition, we have numbers to form government without elections. We are not afraid of elections, but we are saying it is not necessary to take that expensive route just to prove to one man that he has lost the numbers. Even if we may go for elections, we are certain Ntate Mosisili will not come back as a prime minister. Should we spend around M300 million in elections just to let go of Ntate Mosisili? Here is a government which says it would rather spend M300 million to buy the pride of the incumbent prime minister rather than to spend the money on developmental programmes that build the country’s economy! That’s just too much of a package for Ntate Mosisili to go home!