PM needs to play his cards right – Analysts

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Tefo Tefo and Pascalinah Kabi

PRIME Minister Pakalitha Mosisili may be facing his political Waterloo if he does not play his cards right ahead of the reconvening of the National Assembly, analysts have said.

According to the analysts, the infighting rocking the Democratic Congress (DC) posed a mortal risk to the seven-party coalition government. The reconvening of the National Assembly on 7 October 2016 after a long winter vacation, they say, could be a catalyst for the coalition’s unravelling in light of speculation of a no-confidence motion against the government.

Unprecedented infighting in the DC has shaken the DC to its very core, with senior officials aligned to opposing factions trading insults on various media platforms. So intense has been the internecine strife in the DC that two factions have emerged, with Lithope (loosely translated to girlfriends) linked to Dr Mosisili and Lirurubele (butterflies) linked to his deputy Monyane Moleleki.

National University of Lesotho Political and Administrative Lecturer Tlohang Letsie says a split was looming in the DC especially in view of the history of congress parties in Lesotho.

“I think the two factions are still weighing their options and the person who might leave the party would be the one who is convinced he has the majority of followers,” Mr Letsie says.

“It has become a culture within the congress parties that when a leader is in conflict with the National Executive Committee (NEC), the end result is a split. I say this having also considered the NEC has control over the party’s resources.”

In the event of a split, he notes that Dr Mosisili was the most likely to leave and form a new party because he was more popular than the others, although the possibility of him joining the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) could not be discounted “as there is some talk about it”.

Mr Letsie says Dr Mosisili’s decision to leave or stay would be influenced by whether or not he still had the ambition to continue much longer in politics.

“He can only join the LCD if he wants to spend a little time before retiring from active politics. But if he still has long-term ambitions, I think he will opt to form a new political party.

“But I don’t think he can just leave without being convinced he has many people following him,” adds Mr Letsie.

Transformation Resource Centre Democracy and Civic Education Officer Tsikoane Peshoane told the Lesotho Times Dr Mosisili was pondering his next move after some party and government officials ministers including Mr Moleleki and DC Secretary-General, Ralechate ’Mokose snubbed the 18 September protest march to show support for the premier and the coalition.

“During his (Dr Mosisili’s) speech at the protest march, he created an impression he was going to take action against ministers who were not present at the march,” Mr Peshoane says.

“As he was talking about the absence of ‘a minister’ at the occasion, there were calls from people gathered for a cabinet reshuffle.

“It would be illogical that he does nothing about the absence of the ministers. He has to take action against those who did not participate. But it is also difficult to do that given the practical circumstances.”

He says the premier was damned if he acted against his rivals and damned if he didn’t.

“If he reshuffles cabinet, it is likely Mr Moleleki would leave the party with other people and that would create instability in government leading to its collapse,” says Mr Peshoane.

“On the other hand, if he does not act on the ministers, he might lose the moral authority among the people who attended the march.”

He further notes a split would also raise questions about Dr Mosisili’s leadership style because there had been many splits under his leadership.

“If the party splits, it will be a call for him to reflect on his leadership skills,” Mr Peshoane says.

Political economist Arthur Majara opines Dr Mosisili’s course of action in the coming days would determine whether or not a split would occur.

He says it was incumbent upon the premier to act decisively to address the infighting in his party and government before it got out of hand.

“The premier’s first option is to fire Mr Moleleki and Mr ‘Mokose from cabinet as their presence will continue to cause problems for the government,” Mr Majara says.

“Firing them from cabinet would destabilise them. Imagine Ntate Moleleki in parliament as an ordinary legislator — that would affect his ego.”

He says such a drastic move would force anyone to think long and hard about their own economic and social standing before siding with Mr Moleleki.”

Mr Majara says local politics had always been based on power struggles which made it difficult to achieve lasting peace and stability. He says the local political landscape was based entirely on personal interests owing to Lesotho’s weak economic status.

“Unfortunately we have not found a cure that would guarantee peace and stability in the country.

“For instance, people choose and join political parties based on what they are likely to gain. They know that chances of winning a tender are high when you are a DC member,” says Mr Majara.

In view of their current economic statuses, he says no one would want to risk losing their parliamentary incentives by defecting to join Mr Moleleki in a new party should he decide to form one.

Mr Majara however points out even if Dr Mosisili sacked them from cabinet, he would still have to deal with them within party structures.

“So the second option for the prime minister is to migrate straight into LCD and I can guarantee that government will not collapse,” Mr Majara adds.

Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organizations Economic Justice Coordinator Sekonyela Mapetja says the infighting within the DC could only be resolved if Dr Mosisili ate humble pie by reconciling with his foes.

“This quagmire can only be resolved by Prime Minister Mosisili and he has to make a decision. The best decision if he has intentions of retaining his position in politics would be to swallow his pride and go back to the party structures and make peace,” says Mr Mapetja.

He says Dr Mosisili did not have much choice but to reconcile with the party structures — held by his archrivals — after the protest march failed to garner the popular support that would afford him a chance to migrate with the premiership into a new party.

Mr Mapetja also states the infighting was detrimental to Lesotho’s economy given the risk of costly fresh elections.

“Our economy is too fragile, our foreign currency reserves are too low and our budget deficit is too high and elections would be a costly exercise we cannot afford and he (Dr Mosisili) too cannot risk politically,” says Mr Mapetja.

He further indicates that for the DC to avoid a split that could destabilise government, it would require the warring parties to take the hard decision of rising above personal interests.

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