17 March, 2015

A Constitutional Reform: An Essential Element for the Success of Lesotho’s Coalition System of Governance

by M. K. Mahlakeng

“a coalition government is a cabinet of a parliamentary government in which several parties cooperate, and a common reason for such an agreement is that no party on its own can achieve a majority in parliament”

Following the 28th February general snap elections, a coalition of seven parties, namely the Democratic Congress (DC), Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Basotho Congress Party (BCP), National Independent Party (NIP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) and Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), also viewed as a coalition of “Congress Parties”, was established.

On the 4th March, the coalition partners’ met at “Mosikong-ao-Thaba” (i.e. the BCP headquarters) and elected DC leader and former PM Pakalitha Mosisili as the country’s next PM. The DC won 47 of the 120 parliamentary seats on offer, while the All Basotho Convention, LCD, Basotho National Party, Reformed Congress of Lesotho, PFD, BCP, LPC, MFP and NIP took 46, 12, seven, two, two, one, one, one and one, respectively.

Pakalitha Mosisili (Photo: ILO)
This is a second and largest coalition government in Lesotho following the collapse of the ABC, BNP and LCD coalition which only took office for two years. With varying reasons for its “coup de grâce”, ranging from unilateral decision-making, the politicisation of the security agencies to a clash of ideologies, however, one can question whether the current coalition government will learn from the former coalition.

As many of these parties come from one branch (i.e. the BCP), for instance, a split occurred within the BCP in 1997 forming the LCD, and the LCD went through two splits in 2001 and 2012 which saw the establishment of the LPC and DC respectively. One ought to believe that this coalition represents the re-establishment of a sense of unity of the Congress movement in Lesotho. And as such, miscommunication in the process of governance, which is common in an entity of various organisations, will be easily restored.

However, one key element that is essential for the survival of this coalition government, or any coalition government in Lesotho for that matter, is the establishment of a constitutional commission to see the process of “constitutional reform”, something that was not done in the previous coalition government and detrimental to its downfall. Due to the changing political landscape, the constitution must change accordingly to accommodate for varying needs and demands associated with coalition governments. This means the inclusion of the principle of the coalition government in the constitution to provide it with legitimacy.

An inclusion of the coalition governments’ principles in the constitution will serve numerous purposes. Firstly, this will ensure accountability and responsiveness to the duties of the coalition partners. Secondly, it will protect the principles and integrity of the coalition government. Thirdly, it will protect the rights of all coalition partners. And lastly, it will help avoid duties and responsibilities of coalition partners in various ministries being encroached upon.

If the survival of any coalition government rests on an efficient co-operative manner of governance, then a constitution is an essential tool to ensure such.

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