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‘Ruling parties in Africa

Billy Ntaote

MASERU — The Appeal Court’s ruling validating main opposition Democratic Congress (DC) Tele constituency MP Ndiwuhleli Ndlomose’s election, is a boost for the DC’s morale but does not “guarantee the party will win next year’s by-election”, say analysts.

If anything, analysts who spoke to the Sunday Express this week say, the by-election is going to be an enormous test for the DC, as the party could lose to the three coalition government partners, as proof that “opposition parties in Africa never win by-elections”.

The DC lost the two constituencies of Thaba-Moea and Thaba-Phechela, following the deaths of their MPs, Mokhokoli Seautloali and Molahlehi Malefane in April and October respectively.

Twenty-two local government electoral divisions lost to the DC are also up for grabs in the anticipated poll.

Now the ruling coalition government partners, the All Basotho Convention (ABC), the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) and the Basotho National Party (BNP) are eying the constituencies in the hope of enhancing their numbers in parliament and consolidating themselves at local government level.

However, the general view of analysts is that, the by-election in the two constituencies will be “an interesting one with unpredictable results” but highlighted that compared to the DC, the coalition parties’ prospects of bagging the constituencies are brighter compared to those of the DC.

This they say is because the coalition partners, as a result of incumbency, are at an advantage in terms of resources to finance their election campaigns.

Seabata Motsamai, Executive Director of the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) says at the moment the DC’s vibrant Sunday political rallies timetable as well as the fact that the party previously won the vacant constituencies at the May 2012 poll “give it an advantage”.

“DC’s Sunday rallies have been political incentives for the party. Other parties can make it if from now up to January next year, they focus on the two constituencies,” Motsamai says.

“They also need to focus on setting special campaign teams to garner support even during the week, because failure to do that gives the DC the opportunity to stay on top.”

As for the rest of the parties, Motsamai says, they will need to apply extra effort to be felt in these constituencies.

“The local government is a little different because the voters look at different things such as candidates standing for by-elections or how the person relates to them,” Motsamai says.

On the question of the Court of Appeal verdict for the Tele constituency, Motsamai is cautious not to raise the hopes of the DC.

“I do not think the Tele case verdict has boosted their morale in any way. But at national level the case has boosted the DC campaign teams,” Motsamai says.

On the other hand, Motsamai adds, it is critical for the DC to use to their advantage the fact that they won in those two constituencies.

“However, they should not rest as other parties may explore other strategies,” Motsamai says.

Dr Motlamelle Kapa, Political and Administrative Studies Head of Department at the National University of Lesotho (Nul), says the Tele court battle victory secured by Ndlomose “will definitely gain DC motivation”.

However, Kapa is also of the view that it is not regular for opposition parties in Africa to “win in rural constituencies”.

“This is because they require a lot of funding to canvass.

“But I must highlight the fact that because the DC was a party in power not so long ago, it also counts in their favour,” Kapa says.

Kapa further emphasises that the effectiveness of the ABC, LCD and BNP as the strongest contenders of the by-elections is worth mentioning, as empirical evidence has shown that rural constituencies “vote more for parties in government than those in the opposition”.

Kapa however warned the coalition parties against contesting the by-election jointly as it would be detrimental adding “some of the parties would be risking their demise”.

“Because these parties share government, it is important to contest on their own, particularly because the coalition government agreement reflects them as maintaining their independence,” Kapa says.

“If they contest together, it will deny our democracy its vibrancy as they still need to contest against one another as independent entities.”

He adds: “Lesotho politics should not be about defeating the DC, but should be based on coming up with policies that would improve our existence as a nation.”

Sofonea Shale of Development for Peace Education (DPE) says the Tele court victory for the DC does not necessarily imply that the party “employed any political power to win”.

“The Tele victory by DC does not guarantee them any spin-offs towards the Thaba Moea and Thaba-Phechela constituencies’ by-elections.

“But it all depends on how parties go on about their campaigning,” Shale says.

“If ever Ndlomose’s victory would be used for vote garnering, it’s not clear how.”

For Ndlomose, Shale asserts, the court victory is only a relief from the controversy surrounding his election.”

However, Shale points to the fact that by-elections “do not attract a lot of attention”.

“In most cases the opposition, even if they win by-elections, the result does not bring any significant changes to power configuration in Parliament, and opposition parties are not usually interested to win,” Shale says.

“It’s also a test case, as these constituencies were won previously by the DC and it might be that they want to retain them to maintain their impact on government.”

He adds: “On the other hand, the parties in government might use their position of power to improve their chances.”

According to Shale, the catch with the by-elections is that the DC will be a united front while the coalition parties are going to be “contesting as individual parties”.

“Hence DC is a united block against a divided block”, he said.

Shale also advises the coalition government parties that contesting in the by-elections “will be a time for the parties to re-define themselves”.

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