Is there peace in parliament?

By Sofonea Shale

THOUGH the recent adjournment of Parliament in sine die was reported as a ploy by the government to avert the imminent no-confidence motion, what besets electors, activists and keen observers of Lesotho politics is the support of opposition to the motion on recess.

metsingThough the heated discussion in parliament over the suspension of debate on the budgetary allocations in favour of the no-confidence motion and the manner in which the Deputy Speaker, Honourable Lekhetho Rakuoane, dealt with members of opposition, particularly the Democratic Congress (DC) left the impression among the populace that government has lost both the majority of the House and the cooperation of opposition members. the post parliamentary drama developments point to the contrary and the questions are how and why?
When it was reported that Deputy Speaker refused opposition members right to introduce an urgent matter on March 20 and overruled 15 members who by law had right to challenge his initial refusal decision, analysts saw democracy under threat.
The reported dismissal of MPs who made a scene in the house in resistance to the Rakuoane’s act, raised eyebrows whether this was not the sunup for autocracy.
Before drawing any conclusion about the otherwise politically volatile situation, key questions beg a response which are; what exactly happened and what does the law say?
In line with the National Assembly Standing Order (29) a member who wishes to raise an urgent matter to suspend the business that the House is seized with has a right to give notice to the Speaker before the sitting begins.
Upon satisfaction that the matter is urgent and is of public importance, the Speaker shall request the house to allow the suspension of the current business.
If the house does not approve but at least 15 members rise in support of the request, the Speaker shall overrule the House and the business that the house is handling will be adjourned at 3:30pm of the same day to allow the House to deliberate on the urgent matter.
Though Mootsi Lehata MP notified the Speaker of his intention to move that the House adjourns budgetary allocation debate to allow a no-confidence motion on Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, he did not satisfy the Speaker who turned down the request.
Instead of admitting that the Speaker was not satisfied as the law requests, the opposition members rose against the disallowance decision of the Speaker and claimed that as long as they are 15 or more, they have the right to overrule the Speaker.
Following their singing of the national anthem in protest, Rakuoane, named them which meant that they were suspended from the House for the rest of the day as the Standing Order 50(2) provides.
Though it may not be ascertained whether opposition members acted in ignorance or as a tactfully-calculated move, Rakuoane, upheld the parliamentary rule.
Since this is a political game, the question could as well be what informed Rakuoane’s decision to disallow the urgency of the matter. Was it purely objective or politically motivated?
Since the popularly held view has been that government is seeking ways of preventing the motion of no-confidence to be tabled in the House, it was expected that the opposition would reject any move to send parliament to recess.
To the surprise of many when the Leader of the House deputy Prime Minister Mothetjoa Metsing tabled the motion on Adjournment of Parliament sine die meaning parliamentary break without notice of when it shall resume, was seconded by a member of the opposition.
Although all the other eight members who stood up to speak on the motion were opposition MPs, they raised issues which sought clarity with only Serialong Qoo MP not supporting the motion. At voting, the majority in the House accepted and it was duly passed.
This softened stance by the opposition towards government has been earlier observed when the House passed the National Assembly Electoral (Amendment) Bill 2014.
Of the total of 10 MPs who spoke on this short bill, seven were the opposition taking into account the members of the new alliance.
In both instances, the opposition has cooperated well with government and the passage of the voted resolutions.
The bill and the motion to adjourn could simply mean that while it might be true that the no-confidence war is not yet over, at least questions of majority and cooperation are no longer as sensitive as they were reported to be two weeks ago.
What would be interesting though is what the two sides will do during the break in terms of ensuring majority of the House.
Though the opposition claim they command the majority of the House although there is no evidence to that effect, it is the coalition government which remains an endangered species in the whole equation. It is a known fact that the DC has been able to win to the working alliance with four members from the Bloc and one BCP.
This plus two ABC members demonstrates a considerable shift of loyalty which, though not adequate to send honourable Pakalitha Mosisili back to Qhobosheaneng, should worry the coalition government.
If the coalition government still has 59 MPs and five MPs of Bloc thus commanding the majority, why does the motion of no-confidence scare them? It is the suspicion that does not only haunt the government but even the opposition that makes the whole game cumbersome.

Comments are closed.