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Pull-out not a viable option

by Lesotho Times

THE cracks in the Lesotho opposition ranks widened this week over strategies on how to confront the government regarding the proportional representation (PR) seats issue.

The Lesotho Opposition Forum, an umbrella body for opposition parties, is split over suggestions that the parties pull out their MPs from parliament in protest.

The thinking in the opposition is that such a drastic measure would ratchet up pressure on the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili.

We are not convinced that such a move, which smacks of desperation on the part of the opposition, would be effective in any way.

We also doubt that such a move would be in the best interests of the country.

We hope national interests will take precedence over personal ambitions.

The issue of the PR seats has stuck with us like a sore thumb since the controversial 2007 general elections.

Despite spirited efforts to resolve the dispute the matter has simply refused to go away.

We are all aware of the report by former Botswana president Sir Ketumile Masire and what became of it in 2008.

Masire almost absolved the opposition while laying most of the blame for the dispute on the government.

The Sadc envoy and other electoral experts condemned Lesotho’s electoral model.

They also condemned the electoral alliances that we saw in the run-up to the 2007 elections.

Electoral experts said the 2007 alliances subverted the country’s electoral laws.

The government last week, however, said it was putting a lid on the PR seats issue.

It said the PR seats issue was now a closed chapter.

Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehloha said the government and the opposition had “agreed to disagree” on the matter.

With the government digging in its heels these are surely desperate times for Lesotho’s beleaguered opposition.

Unfortunately there are very few viable options for the opposition.

With less than 17 months before the country goes to the next polls we are not too sure why the country should continue to be held to ransom over the PR seats issue.

There have been noises from the opposition that MPs should pull out of parliament in protest.

Pulling out of parliament at this late juncture would be a thoroughly misguided act of political recklessness by the opposition.

In fact, we are of the opinion that if the opposition were principled as they claim they are, they should have walked out of parliament a long time ago when Masire issued his damning report.

But they did not do so.

The reason is simple.

They are driven by personal interest.

They are fully aware that walking out would mean forfeiting their lavish perks and pensions.

Besides, pulling out of parliament will not shift the power dynamics within parliament.

Parliament will continue to function regardless of whether opposition MPs pull out or not.

Unfortunately the response from the government regarding this matter has not been helpful either.

The belligerent government statements that we have seen do not help in the search for a peaceful resolution of the dispute.

The statements from the government smack of sheer arrogance.

The least the government can do is to acknowledge that mistakes were indeed made on the matter three years ago.

The political dispute that we are facing today is precisely because the government and the opposition bungled in the allocation of the PR seats in the first place.

It would therefore be a great act of magnanimity on the part of the government to acknowledge its own shortcomings and push for viable solutions to the matter.

The government must reassure the nation that we are not going to have a repeat of the 2007 debacle.

We think it would be in the best interests of everyone for the government to leave room for compromise.

Closing all avenues of dialogue is not the best option at this moment.

An opposition that has nothing to lose is a threat to national security.

Lessons elsewhere in Africa should serve to promote dialogue for the sake of peace and national stability.

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