MASERU — Opposition parties claim the government admitted at a Monday meeting that it had botched the implementation of the controversial Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral model.
There are also claims that at the same meeting held at the United Nations House the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) also admitted, for the first time since the dispute erupted in 2007, that it had not allocated the seats properly.
The leader of the All Basotho Convention (ABC) Tom Thabane told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that he stormed out of the talks on Monday after the government admitted that it had bungled the MMP model but remained adamant that the seats will not be re-allocated.
The talks are being facilitated by the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) after Sir Ketumile Masire who was appointed by SADC to mediate quit the talks last year accusing the government of being unco-operative.
Thabane said he was particularly angered when the government’s chief representative at the talks, Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla, “suggested that the confirmation of the position of the leader of the opposition in parliament should be debated by the MPs in the National Assembly”.
This suggestion, Thabane said, was a sign that although the government was prepared to admit that it was wrong it was still not prepared to rectify its mistake.
Government spokesperson Mothetjoa Metsing however dismissed the opposition’s claims that the government had admitted that it bungled the MMP allocation.
“I think whoever said we admitted that the MMP model was compromised misunderstood us when we said we did not have any problem with its improvement,” Metsing said on Wednesday.
The government, Metsing said, had only said it was not hostile to the idea of improving the law if that is what the opposition wanted.
“Every electoral model is applied by law notwithstanding that it may have its academic principles,” he said.
“We only said it would be in the interest of us all if the model could be improved in harmony with the law. That does mean we were admitting that the system was applied wrongly.”
Metsing declined to comment further saying only the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) was allowed to talk to the press about the talks.
A livid Thabane however said he had understood the government’s pronouncement at the meeting to mean that they were admitting that “things were not done properly”.
He said the problems started when the government representatives said they were not prepared to talk about the re-allocation of seats.
“That made me angry because they were admitting that something wrong had been done but they were not prepared to resolve it,” he said.
“Why do they want to take it (the dispute over the leader of the opposition in parliament) back to parliament knowing well that it was raised there before?
“We respect these people because they are the government but I think they are overstretching their luck,” he said.
“I walked out because I was angry and I felt that they were taking the talks to a very low level. I told the CCL mediators that trying to negotiate with these people was a sheer waste of time.
“They seem to have an impression that this country belongs to them alone.”
Other opposition sources who were in the meeting told the Lesotho Times on Tuesday that the government had indeed admitted that the seats had not been properly allocated but still insisted that their re-allocation was not negotiable.
“The government and the IEC admitted that the MMP model was compromised in 2007 elections but the government is not prepared to talk about the re-allocation of PR seats,” the source said.
“Lehohla was adamant that re-allocating PR seats or expanding parliament to allow inclusion of people who were wrongly elbowed out was a wrong move.
“The opposition on the other hand was pressing for discussion of the allocation of PR seats.”