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Interpretation of the constitution beyond political party lines

THE interpretation of the constitutional provisions given by the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Speaker of Parliament to block a no confidence vote against Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili and his government early this month should not be allowed to go unchallenged for it will set a dangerous precedent.
The whole explanation was more about manipulative political point-scoring than the spirit and the letter of the supreme law of the land.
Unless this is challenged those in power may be tempted to apply this distortion to suit their interests outside the purview of the law.
We must never allow those in power to misinterpret the supreme law of the land. Never!
The failed attempt by the opposition leaders to pass a no confidence vote against Mosisili and his government put the constitution of Lesotho, in particular sections 83 and 87, under the spotlight.
First, the Acting Minister of Communications, Science and Technology Dr Timothy Thahane made a statement indicating that in the event that the no confidence motion passes the seating prime minister shall have two options, either to resign or make way for the new one or advise the King to dissolve Parliament.
In the latter case an election shall follow.
Second, Hon Monyane Moleleki, Hon Lineo Molise-Mabusela and Hon Motumi Ralejoe reiterated the fact that the prime minister will advise the King to dissolve parliament if he loses support from the MPs.
The leader of Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC) Hon Kelebone Maope MP, KC told the public that the two options that the prime minister may choose from are the constitutional routes to follow in the event that a motion succeeds.
All these interpretations are correct and are in line with section 83 (4) (b) of the constitution.
There is however a big question on the intention of the limited disclosure given by the politicians.
For those who may not have access to the constitution and have been influenced by the politicians’ interpretations to believe that the change of government without dissolution of parliament is at the mercy of the prime minister, I wish to shed more light.
If the disposed prime minister may choose to resign or advice dissolution, this means that it is almost impossible for him/her to choose resignation.
By advising dissolution the incumbent prime minister goes to an election still in office, so no politically sound leader can choose the less advantageous route.
Is this what the constitution of Lesotho provides for?
Yes, but not only this.
The frequently cited section 83 (4) has got (a), (b) and (c) but some people are only referring to (b).
Section 83 (4) (a) of the constitution says if the prime minister recommends a dissolution and the King considers that the government of Lesotho can function without a dissolution and that a dissolution would not be in the interests of Lesotho, he may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, refuse to dissolve parliament.
This provision clearly shows that the democratic change of government is not at the mercy of an unpopular prime minister.
It shows that if his advice to dissolve parliament is rejected the unpopular prime minister would have to resign.
Would it not have been proper for those who took liberty to interpret the constitution to give this broad explanation?
It may be understandable why government and the LCD never even mention (a) but I honestly cannot fathom why the leader of LPC omitted it.
Sub-section (c) only indicates that for a motion of no confidence to pass, it has to propose an alternative prime minister.
Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla, indicated that the Speaker of the National Assembly had noted that since the alternative prime minister in the motion, Hon Mothetjoa Metsing, was not a leader of a political party or coalition of political parties, the motion could not meet the constitutional requirement.
This explanation emanates from section 87 (2) which says the King shall appoint as prime minister the member of the National Assembly who appears to the Council of State to be the leader of the political party or coalition of political parties that will command the support of a majority of the members of the National Assembly.
This means that even if Hon Metsing had not withdrawn his name the motion could still not have seen the light of day under the constitutional proviso.
Again, we need to shed some light on this explanation.
Madam Speaker has earlier denied opposition parties their right to name one of their own as the Official Leadership of Opposition in parliament on the basis of the same section.
The Speaker seems to take the words “political party or coalition of political parties” in section 87 (2) to literally mean political parties or a coalition of political parties.
The contention I am raising is not new.

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