‘No-confidence motion a matter of time’



Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai

Billy Ntaote

THE no-confidence vote motion mooted by the opposition alliance on the government in parliament faces many obstacles with National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai having many aces up her sleeve in frustrating the move, analysts have said.

However, the analysts have also posited that the seven-party governing alliance cannot hold off the opposition for long, since the latter now claim to have the majority in the National Assembly.

Barely two years after being formed by seven parties led by Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili’s Democratic Congress (DC) the fate of the government hangs in the balance as a no-confidence motion looms with the reconvening of the National Assembly tomorrow.

The tetrad opposition alliance has vowed to table a no-confidence vote motion, having been bolstered by splits within the governing coalition parties.

Former DC deputy leader Monyane Moleleki, jumped ship last December to form the Alliance of Democrats after joining forces with the opposition bloc that includes the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party and Reformed Congress of Lesotho.

The parties had inked a coalition pact meant to oust and replace the government in parliament last November. The agreement, which was reaffirmed on Tuesday, would see Mr Moleleki becoming prime minister for the first 18 months upon forming government and thereafter trade places with ABC leader Thomas Thabane who would initially be deputy prime minister.

The opposition’s bid to unseat Dr Mosisili’s regime began prior to the 22 November 2016 adjournment of the august House with a submission of a no-confidence motion on Deputy Speaker Montšuoe Lethoba.

The motion was meant to test the opposition alliance’s strength ahead of another no-confidence motion on the seven-party governing coalition.

However, shortly afterwards, Ms Motsamai indefinitely adjourned the National Assembly, saying the House had “run out of time” following the presentation and tabling of various reports and bills, much to the opposition’s chagrin.

Ten Members of Parliament (MPs) then lodged an urgent application before the High Court in December 2016 seeking an order to compel Ms Motsamai to reconvene the august House. However, the legislators last month withdrew their application, saying it had been rendered academic since the judges presiding over it had not regarded it as urgent.

Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations Executive Secretary Seabata Motsamai was of the view that the government had many ways of frustrating the motion, although they could not stave off the opposition for long.

“This is Lesotho after all, and anything is possible. The government can frustrate the no-confidence motion and they can even go to the courts to try to block it from ever seeing the light of day,” he said.

“It is likely National Assembly Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai will dilly-dally in facilitating the debating of the motion in the House. If the government is determined to frustrate the process, it can do that even though the standing orders are very clear that such a motion takes precedence over other motions.”

Mr Motsamai said Dr Mosisili’s declaration that he would dissolve parliament and advise King Letsie III to call for elections in the event legislators passed a vote of no-confidence on his government was meant to “misinform” the public.

He said under such circumstances, the King would consult the Council of State to ascertain if a new administration could take over without the need for elections.

“The no-confidence motion presents the country with an opportunity to test the efficacy of the constitution. The pronouncements by the prime minister that he would advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for snap elections if a no-confidence vote against him succeeds was tantamount to misinforming the country since the legal framework is clear on what should happen,” added Mr Motsamai.

This was echoed by the Transformation Resource Centre’s Democracy, Good Governance and Human Rights Programme Manager, Lira Theko, who said legislators were within their rights to file a no-confidence vote motion.

He also noted that only the speaker could stand in the opposition alliance’s way and not political parties.

“MPs and the National Assembly speaker are the main players in the event of a motion of this nature. Claims by some political parties in government that they won’t allow the motion to see the light of day are misplaced and only reflect dictatorial tendencies that are beyond what is prescribed by the parliamentary Standing Orders, if not just political rhetoric,” said Mr Theko.

“There is no way the government can frustrate a no-confidence motion if it is acting within the legal bounds.”

He added: “Only the speaker holds the powers to frustrate a no-confidence motion although there are also limits to what she can do.”

For his part, political analyst Nthakeng Pheello Selinyane said Ms Motsamai could hold off the no-confidence vote motion by prioritising the passing of the budget. Budgetary allocations are usually held in February since Lesotho’s financial year starts in April.

“As the National Assembly reconvenes, its main focus will be the government’s business which is the budget,” he said.

“Any other business can only become an agenda item when parliament is up and running. It is only at that time that the opposition can bring its own business into the House in line with parliamentary standing orders.”

Mr Selinyane, however, noted that once the motion has been proposed, it would be difficult to continue frustrating it.

“Technically, it is not possible for a no-confidence vote motion to be frustrated since it just requires a qualified member of the House and a seconder to propose it, mentioning whom they want to take over as the prime minister.”

He said the opposition could compel Ms Motsamai to prioritise their no-confidence vote motion by invoking Standing Order No. 29 which allows the setting aside of the business of the day for any matter of national interest.

“The standing order requires 15 MPs to stand up and try to convince the House that the matter is of national interest. Ultimately, it will be up to the speaker to decide,” Mr Selinyane said.

On the opposition alliance’s threat that they would block the passage of the national budget if Ms Motsamai ignored their no-confidence vote motion, he said Finance Minister Tlohang Sekhamane had three months to operate without an approved budget.

“The Finance minister is allowed to utilise a quarter of the previous national budget to run government business for up to three months in the event it has not passed.

“So it is now a matter of time, as far as the motion is concerned,” added Mr Selinyane.

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