National University of Lesotho Head of the Department of Political and Administrative Studies, Dr Motlamelle Kapa, says the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) voting system is no longer appropriate for Lesotho.
Under the MMP, the number of Members of Parliament (MPs) each party receives after an election is proportional to the votes the party would have garnered, allowing for a wider range of political views in the legislature.
But according to Dr Kapa, after Lesotho implemented the MMP model in 2002, the system worked because election-results at the time did not necessitate a multiparty government.
“The MMP model was introduced into our politics in 2002 and worked well at the time. But until the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and Basotho National Party (BNP) formed a coalition government (after the 26 May 2012 election produced a hung parliament), no one had realised that smaller parties which had proportional representation in the National Assembly could destabilise multiparty administrations.
“I strongly believe the smaller parties don’t deserve to be included in coalition governments because they don’t fit the definition of a political party anyway.
“A political party is an entity that is ready and fit to be the next government and can influence government policies. In other words, it is a government-in-waiting.
“However, our smaller parties don’t fit this definition, and some either don’t have an operational office or a National Executive Committee. Some are one-man parties where the leader and his family are the administrators.
“So it is unfair for bigger parties which have supporters and would have been voted for, to be side-lined in the formation of coalition governments.
“When Lesotho undertakes constitutional and security reforms, the Political Parties Act should also be enacted to avoid these smaller parties holding the bigger parties to ransom.
“If the leader of a big party in a coalition government doesn’t agree on certain issues with his counterparts from the smaller parties, they threaten to cross the floor in Parliament and form another alliance with other parties. The Political Parties Act would have to give a clear definition of what a political party really is.”
According to Dr Kapa, the current electoral model should be changed if Lesotho’s political problems are to be addressed once and for all.
“We need to have political parties in the true sense of political parties. They should be in a position to have significance in Parliament to influence policies. In Lesotho, political parties are registered under the Societies Act of 1967 and only register with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) so that they can qualify to contest elections.
“These small parties don’t even bother to campaign or work hard to become government because of this MMP model. They only strive to have at least 2000 votes so that they can have proportional representation in the august house.
“They just don’t care about policies because they were not sent to Parliament by the electorate. For example, in this government, one could have a political scientific view that the Democratic Congress (DC) is the only party concerned about the people because they were voted for and given a mandate by the electorate while these small parties don’t care because they don’t have such a responsibility.”
However, former IEC Commissioner and political scientist Dr Fako Likoti begs to differ with Dr Kapa and insists the MMP electoral system is good for Lesotho and democracy.
“To start with, there is no need for the Political Parties Act because Lesotho already has the National Assembly Electoral Act of 2011 to monitor political parties. The MMP electoral system encourages coalition governments and secondly, it is a compensatory model for elected parties. The MMP is the best system for Lesotho,” Dr Likoti said.
The former IEC Commissioner further disagreed with Dr Kapa’s observation that smaller parties create instability in a coalition government and that they don’t meet the requirements to be called political parties.
“They are duly elected and looking at the wider picture, they don’t have a constituency because they are elected in all the constituencies,” Dr Likoti said.
According to Dr Likoti, smaller parties find themselves under a barrage of attacks because the DC refused to form a grand coalition with the ABC, which had won the highest number of constituencies in the 28 February 2015 snap elections called due to a power-struggle between the ABC and LCD leaders.
The ABC, led by former prime minister Thomas Thabane, clinched 40 of the 80 contested constituencies, while Dr Pakalitha Mosisili’s DC took 37, the LCD had two and the BNP won one. However, after the allocation of PR seats, the DC ended up with the highest number of seats (47), followed by the ABC, LCD and BNP at 46, 12, and seven respectively. The Morematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), and Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) ended up with one seat each while the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho had two PR seats apiece to complete the 120-seat legislature.
The DC then decided to form a coalition government with the LCD, MFP, BCP, NIP, LPC and PFD, cutting short Dr Thabane’s reign, which was supposed to end in 2017. Political analysts had then called for a grand coalition of the big parties to ensure a stable government, which however, did not happen.
Dr Likoti noted: “Suggestions to have the Political Parties Act and monitor floor-crossing by MPs are being made by people who don’t appreciate democracy. In fact, there is nothing wrong with floor-crossing; it is democratic and there is nothing immoral about it.
“Politics is about negotiations so there is nothing wrong with smaller parties negotiating terms and conditions of becoming part of a coalition government.
“The smaller parties are constantly being attacked simply because they agreed to form a coalition government with the DC, making the proposed grand coalition unnecessary.”