by M. K. Mahlakeng
The dissolution of the ninth Parliament in Lesotho on 6 March 2017 as a result of a successful vote of no-confidence against Prime Minister (PM) Pakalitha Mosisili, has put an untimely end to the seven party coalition government. As such, Lesotho is expected to hold its general elections on 3 of June 2017. The no-confidence vote against the PM meant two realities. Firstly, the PM, who is the leader of the Democratic Congress (DC) - a leading partner in the coalition government, would have to resign as PM and allow for his party deputy to lead the DC in Parliament and subsequently becoming the PM. And secondly, the passing of this motion meant that the PM acting according to section 83(1) and (4)(b) would have to advise the King as Head of State to prorogue and/or dissolve parliament. And if the option in this case become the dissolution of parliament, then an election date must be announced. As such, elections should be held within a period of three months of the dissolution. Therefore, the PM opted for the latter which is to advise the King to dissolve parliament and announce an election date.
According to section 83(1), “the King may at any time prorogue or dissolve Parliament”. Moreover, section 83(4)(b) states that “in the exercise of his powers to dissolve or prorogue parliament, the King shall act in accordance with the advice of the Prime Minister: provided that if the National Assembly passes a resolution of no confidence in the Governement of Lesotho and the Prime Minister does not within three days thereafter either resign or advice a dissolution the King may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, dissolve parliament”.
|King Letsie III and the Queen of Lesotho. Photo: IAEA Imagebank (CC BY-SA 2.0)|
This relationship between the PM (i.e. Head of Government) and the King (i.e. Head of State) and the role afforded to the King relates much to the system of governance used in Lesotho. In contrast to the Presidential system of government where the Head of State is also Head of Government, Lesotho uses a Parliamentary system of government. Given the existence of a Monarch, Lesotho is a parliamentary constitutional monarch and in this instance, in due respect of history and culture the Monarch simply plays a ceremonial role. A role meant to symbolize a unified nation. The Monarch’s existence in Lesotho’s sociopolitical environment means that he plays the role of being head of state and plays no part in the political affairs of the country.
This sees the collapse of a second coalition government in Lesotho, with each coalition government barely completing its expected term of governance. The 2012 Thabane-led three party coalition government collapse in 2014. This pact comprised of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD). This coalition government collapsed only 2 years in office as a result of poor leadership, tensions and misunderstandings that occurred “between coalition partners” (especially between the ABC and LCD).
This collapse therefore led to the 28th February 2015 general snap elections which resulted in a second coalition government comprising of 7 parties i.e. 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). However, in contrast to the causes of the collapse of the Thabane-led government (i.e. a fall-out between coalition partners), the prolonged “power struggle within parties” (i.e. particularly in two major coalition partners – the DC and LCD) was a major factor. These power struggles led to the formation of factions within these parties and subsequently causing splinter groups to emerge thus affecting the stability and size of government to rule legitimately as a majority government.
Now with an election date of 3 June confirmed, there is a further indication of a possible coalition government. This is made evident of electoral pacts already being formed signifying the possibility that one party alone cannot win government power. And the cause of this has been the rapid emergence of splinter parties which have successfully broken down major parties and further broadened electoral choice. These election pacts are witnessed on the one hand between the ABC, Alliance of Democrats (AD), BNP and Reformed Congress for Lesotho (RCL), and on the other hand between the DC, LCD and the Popular Front for Democracy (PFD). Although signs of a successive coalition are imminent, however, to clearly determine which coalition government with which party as a partner will largely depend on a successful election campaign to make a party in either pact an important partner worth working with.