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‘Lesotho’s fate rests on Council of State’

 

Lekhetho Ntsukunyane

WHETHER King Letsie III will dissolve parliament to call for elections or hand over power to the opposition after last Wednesday’s passing of a no-confidence vote against the government is in the hands of the Council of State, analysts have said.

The analysts said this in the wake of the resounding parliamentary no-confidence vote by the four-party opposition alliance consisting of the All Basotho Convention (ABC), Alliance of Democrats (AD), Basotho National Party (BNP) and Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCD) which toppled Dr Mosisili’s government.

Dr Mosisili is the leader of the main party in government, the Democratic Congress (DC) which partnered with the Lesotho Congress of Democracy (LCD), Popular Front for Democracy (PFD), Marematlou Freedom Party (MFP), Lesotho People’s Congress (LPC), National Independent Party (NIP) and Basotho Congress Party (BCP) to form government following the 28 February 2015 snap elections that produced a hung parliament.

And after last Wednesday’s no confidence vote, both sides have petitioned King Letsie III, with Dr Mosisili advising that His Majesty dissolves parliament and call for elections while the opposition have petitioned King Letsie III to reject the elections call and endorse their nominee, AD leader Monyane Moleleki to replace Dr Mosisili as prime minister.

Dr Mosisili’s Economic and Political Advisor, Fako Likoti yesterday confirmed to the Sunday Express that the premier approached King Letsie III immediately after the passing of the no-confidence vote on Wednesday to advise him to dissolve parliament and call for elections.

Dr Likoti, a political scientist, said according to the constitution, the premier was afforded three working days from Thursday to choose from three options, namely resign as prime minister; advise His Majesty to dissolve parliament and call for elections or not react at all following the no-confidence vote.

“He could have waited until on Monday at 4:30pm to make his decision, but, a few minutes after the no-confidence motion was passed, the prime minister chose to advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for the elections,” Dr Likoti said.

He, however, noted that the King was not bound by the three working days to pronounce himself on whether he would dissolve parliament and call elections as per Dr Mosisili’s advice, or endorse the opposition to take over the government in line with section 83(4)(a) of the constitution.

The section reads: “If the prime minister recommends a dissolution and the King considers that the government of Lesotho can be carried on 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.”

However, the opposition’s stance is that elections are not in the best interests of Lesotho on grounds that they are expensive to hold and government does not have the money.

The four opposition parties have since reportedly petitioned King Letsie III not to heed Dr Mosisili’s advice and appealed to the Council of State to advise His Majesty “accordingly.”

The Council of State is a statutory body provided for by the country’s constitution to assist His Majesty in the discharge of his functions “and to exercise such other functions as are conferred by this Constitution”.

Currently it consists of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili, Speaker of the National Assembly, Ntlhoi Motsamai, High Court Justices ’Maseshophe Hlajoane and Lisebo Chaka–Makhooane, Attorney General Tšokolo Makhethe, Lesotho Defence Force Commander Khoantle Motšomotšo, Commissioner of Police Molahlehi Letsoepa, Principal Chief Mathealira Seeiso, ABC leader, Thomas Thabane and BNP leader Chief Thesele ’Maseribane.

Additionally, the council consists of “not more than three persons who shall be appointed by the King on the advice of the prime minister, by virtue of their special expertise, skill or experience, and a member of the legal profession in private practice who shall be nominated by the Law Society.”

And analysts say the high stakes contest’s resolution lies in the hands of the Council of State.

Prominent political analyst, Nthakeng Pheello Selinyane yesterday told the Sunday Express that: “What needs to be done is contained in section 83(4) (a), (b) and (c) which are clear that whatever the King will do he will do it in accordance with the advice of the Council of State”.

Sub-section (4)(b) states that if the National Assembly passes a resolution of no confidence in the government and the prime minister does not resign or advise a dissolution within three days “the King may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, dissolve Parliament”.

And part (c) states that if the office of prime minister is vacant “and the King considers that there is no prospect of his being able within a reasonable time to find a person who is the leader of a political party or a coalition of political parties that will command the support of a majority of the members of the National Assembly, he may, acting in accordance with the advice of the Council of State, dissolve Parliament”.

Mr Selinyane said it was therefore “clear” that whatever decision King Letsie III would take, “he will do so based on a recommendation by the Council of State”.

Mr Selinyane suggested that the Council of State’s recommendation would be influenced by the fact of where the sympathies of the majority of its members lay.

He noted that Dr Mosisili had recently announced at a public rally in the Pela-Tšoeu constituency that he had “lost support” in the Council of State.

This, he said, could mean that the majority of members in the council may not vote in favour of Dr Mosisili.

“Actually, there is speculation that Ntate Mosisili only commands the support of five out of 14 members of the Council of State. The other nine are allegedly aligned to the opposition,” Mr Selinyane said.

For his part, constitutional law expert, Dr Hoolo ’Nyane, said it was “a general principle” provided for by the constitution that the King may prorogue or dissolve parliament anytime at the advice of the prime minister.

He then quoted section 84 and throughout its subsections noting they exempted the King from “necessarily relying” on the prime minister’s advice.

“Actually, that section is clear that the King should act on the advice of the Council of State instead of the prime minister,” he said. 

 

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