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LCD slams lid on PR seats talks

Staff Reporter


MASERU — Deputy Prime Minister Lesao Lehohla says the proportional representation dispute is now a closed chapter because the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) government will not give in to opposition demands to revise the allocation of parliamentary seats under the system.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Express, Lehohla said instead the government was already working on simplifying the electoral model that has caused a political standoff since the 2007 general polls.

Opposition parties, on the other hand, have vowed they will not rest until the compensatory seats allocation they believe was skewed in favour of the ruling LCD party is revised.

“It was canvassed, discussed, dissected by all sorts of opinion at home and abroad,” Lehohla said, referring to the proportional representation issue.

“But we agreed to disagree. I don’t think much can be done about it.”

He said the government considered the seat allocation dispute a closed chapter.

“They have stuck to their position,” Lehohla, who is also the LCD deputy leader and home affairs minister, said.

“But from our perspective there was nothing amiss.”

Lesotho uses a mixed system with 80 of the parliamentary seats allocated in single member constituencies, where the winner takes all, under the first-past-the-post system.

The other 40 seats are parcelled out by proportional representation on a party list system — which is supposed to provide “compensatory seats” to correct the imbalances of the first-past-the-post system.

The opposition argues that the proportional representation seats were not allocated correctly.

After the 2007 elections, the Marematlou Freedom Party lodged a High Court application seeking an order declaring the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC)’s final allocation of seats in the national assembly unconstitutional and invalid.

The party wanted the court to declare the alliance between the LCD and the National Independent Party a single entity for the purpose of allocation of seats in the mixed-member proportional representation system.

It also wanted the same order for the alliance between the opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) and the Lesotho Workers Party (LWP).

The Marematlou Freedom Party argued that both the LCD and ABC had subverted the system by entering into alliances with minor parties under which they would get more seats under the proportional representation system.

Had the party’s court case succeeded, the LCD and ABC would have lost 20 seats.

Talks, including a mission by the regional Southern African Development Community bloc, have failed to resolve the impasse.

The Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) is however still trying to mediate between the government and the opposition parties.

Lehohla told the Sunday Express that what was rather critical and urgent was to amend the National Assembly Act to remedy the problems that bedevilled the proportional representation system.

“The case was about alliances that were supposed to have distorted the electoral model,” he said.

“We just have to work on legislation to avoid the same pitfalls again.”

He said political leaders had started working on the proposed amendments which he could not specify.

“Yesterday (Thursday) we were at it. Political leaders were discussing but complexities continue to plague us,” Lehohla said.

“We have to work quickly to free the IEC to start preparing for the 2012 election. It’s basically an amendment of the existing law.”

LWP deputy leader Sello Maphalla yesterday however expressed disappointment with the government’s position “because we have agreed not to close the proportional representation seats chapter”.

“On the 4th of August in a meeting between government, CCL and the opposition, the agreement reached was that we should all not accept to close the chapter,” Maphalla said.

“The CCL was adamant that we should not abandon the issue, just in case we made a breakthrough at some point.

“Representing government in that meeting was Ntate Lehohla accompanied by Mothetjoa Metsing, Motloheloa Phooko and ‘M’e Mpeo Mahase-Moiloa.”

Maphalla however said the opposition welcomed the amendment of the electoral laws.

“We are willing to work on the laws so that we are done before the 2012 elections,” he said.

“We just don’t feel it’s wise to discard the PR issue because the truth has to prevail somehow.”

“But it should be noted that even if the electoral laws are amended,” Maphalla added, “we will not participate in the elections unless the government comes clean about the PR seats issue.”

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