THE coalition government came into power on June 8 last year after the historic national elections of May 26 that year. The election result was viewed as phenomenal and was an epoch-making for the country since independence as it bore no outright winner among 19 political parties that had contested the election.
The contesting parties were forced to form alliances with others to garner enough support to form a government. During the heated electoral campaigns where parties lured voters to vote in their favour, the Democratic Congress (DC) leader, Pakalitha Mosisili had made it crystal clear that his party would not entertain a coalition with any party as coalitions are problematic.
The DC is a splinter group from the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and was only three months old on polling day. The All Basotho Convention (ABC) had intimated that it would engage in talks with other parties to form an alliance. LCD, which had just lost when the DC was founded, seemed receptive to the idea of forming alliances with other parties.
The Constitution of Lesotho requires that a party that forms government must have garnered more than half of the total seats in parliament (in this case it is 61 out of 120 seats). DC went way with 48 seats becoming the highest, followed by ABC, which got 30, LCD 26 while Basotho National Party got five.
Popular Front for Democracy got three. The rest of the parties got one seat each. Immediately, after release of the election result by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC), parties frantically tried to lure others to join forces with them to form a government. It was only a few hours after the announcement of the election result that ABC, LCD and BNP convened a press conference to announce their intent to forge a coalition, which allowed them to reach the 61 bare minimum required by the constitution.
Other parties, which had one seat each seemed to endorse this undertaking, as at that time, it had become clear even to a simpleton that a common opponent was the DC, which many perceived as having stepped on the toes of everyone before elections. This had followed a bizarre floor-crossing that was later announced as a government by the Speaker of National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai, who was part of the DC anyway.
DC did not wait-and-see as parties engaged in courting small parties to join forces with them with intent to forming a government. However, the DC did not make any headway as it only succeeded to convince the Basotho Batho Democratic Party (BBDP). In a wild goose chase, the DC later relented when it realised its attempts to bring parties to its fold were in vain. The Deputy Leader of the party, Monyane Moleleki, who is now Official Leader of Opposition in parliament, had indirectly conceded defeat that if they failed to secure enough seats, they would become “His Majesty’s Loyal Opposition”.
Once government was in place, the DC seemed not to have fully accepted the idea of being in opposition and that a coalition government was legitimately in place. This was given credence by its leader and his deputy going on a charm offensive to inform voters that they had been “robbed of their victory” by parties that “stole the voters’ will” by forming an alliance against the will of the people expressed in the ballot box.
This went counter to the historic transfer of power from one regime to another, especially from one party to another or a coalition of parties. The DC leader former President Pakalitha Mosisili had led the handover very meticulously and got credit for that. He even received international accolades for the gesture that put Lesotho under the international spotlight for peaceful, free and credible elections that were also characterised by a smooth transfer of power.
While others contend that the DC was only caught at dagger’s point as it had not anticipated the defeat and was consequently in denial over its loss of power, others argue that the party was taken unawares, against its high expectation that a replica and semblance of the post-1997 split in the Basutoland Congress Party (BCP) would repeat itself, where a young LCD then clinched victory.
Expectation was that the party, now leading opposition in parliament would recover from the post-election fever that took it by surprise, but it is now 16 months after the election, the DC seems not to have come to terms with its loss. The party is still parroting the same political mantra that the coalition government is a miscarriage of the will of the people expressed on polling day.
However, at the heart of the politicking, political prudence should be at the centre of everything, lest posterity judges politicians with misleading future generations. The claims of the DC and its politicking, which to a greater extent has revolved around lamenting about their defeat and labelling it a rip-off by the coalition, have no foundation. These will only remain a political whirlwind.
A representative of the National Union of Mineworkers, Montoeli Masoetsa dismisses DC’s claims on the premise that the party is crying foul because it wants to create an impression that is had what it takes to become government. He argues that the DC had also been engaged in the courting of smaller parties to join forces with the main opposition in parliament in formation of a coalition, but only failed.
Masoetsa is of the view that the DC should focus on governance issues instead of lamenting what cannot be remedied as it is clear its hold on power is long gone.
Sithetho is a journalist based in Maseru