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Push for amendment of electoral laws

Mzimkhulu Sithetho

MASERU — Developments following the dialogue on the post-election dispute show that there is no progress on the core issue of reallocation of seats in parliament.
Loss of confidence in the SADC mission is testimony to the fact that the opposition might be crying over spilt milk.
However, accolades go to the Christian Council of Lesotho (CCL) for taking a bold step by facilitating negotiations among disputing parties on the proportional representation seats.
Though, a culture of dialogue and mutual negotiations is not entrenched among Basotho when problems arise from the political, economic or social spheres.
This comes against the background that Lesotho is a homogenous nation, divided only by clans, totems, partisan politics and Christian denominations.
When talks started two years ago after the highly contested poll of 2007, Basotho had pinned their hopes on the process that it would break the impasse and pave the way forward.
As to be expected any two sides to a dispute will hold on to their positions on issues on the table by all means possible.
But the basic principle of dialogue is that there must be trust and faith from both sides.
When there is disagreement on certain issues, there must be compromises. 
The ruling party could have been flexible and granted the opposition a seat in the National Assembly for the official leader of the opposition.
It is inherent in a dispute that parties to a dispute have vested interests on the issues on the discussion table.
But issues that were tabled during the discussions on the proportional seats had to emanate from Basotho who cast  votes in the 2007 poll.
Leaders are only representatives who must draw their mandate from their supporters.
They must constantly re-port back to their constituencies and get a fresh mandate on the position that they must take.
But in the current dispute political leaders seemed to be manipulating their followers to toe their line which was caricatured as the party line.
Voters did not benefit, but those who wanted to either get to parliament or to remain there because they saw it as a source of income.
This applied to those who were in parliament because of the PR seats and risked losing their positions if the seats were reallocated.
Also those who were already in parliament and were accused of being illegitimate members of the house did not want to lose those seats because it meant losing an income.
No single party has held an internal dialogue at national level for its members to discuss and debate the matters at the centre of the dispute so that the parties could take their views into consideration.
The ruling party leadership has gone to most of the districts to canvass the people’s views on the matter.
They only wanted them to rubberstamp their positions.
The main opposition All Basotho Convention party has also taken the same route of canvassing the people’s views on issues.
What remains a reality is that there are two or so years before the country goes to the next poll and the electoral law has not been amended.
There is a big possibility that the nation will go to the next poll with the same gaps in the legislation.
The Independent Electoral Commission will be forced to use the current legislation resulting in a similar dispute after the 2012 elections. 
Opposition parties are going to complain about the same problems posed by the electoral legislation.
The electoral law is still not consistent with the constitution in some respects.
There are no safeguards to the MMP model and parties are still going to distort it just as they did in the last poll.
The CCL-facilitated mission must push for the amendment of the electoral laws while it is also facilitating for other things.

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