Senators to debate, vote on bill to clip PM’s powers
THE senate will this week deliberate and vote on the constitutional amendment bill which seeks to clip a prime minister’s powers to advise the King to dissolve parliament whenever he loses a no confidence vote.
This after a report on the bill presented by the chairperson of the Legislation Committee Chief Ramoqai Lesaoana Peete was adopted and the bill read for the second time in the upper house on Thursday. The bill will now proceed to the committee stage where its individual clauses will be read before the senate’s legislation committee and amendments made if necessary.
This will be followed by voting and if approved by a two thirds majority, it will be sent back to King Letsie III for signature before it is passed into law.
The bill to stop any unpopular prime minister from unilaterally advising the King to dissolve parliament whenever his power is threatened, is seen as a crucial first step towards current spirited moves to oust current Prime Minister Thomas Thabane. His All Basotho Convention (ABC) party has signed a deal with the opposition Democratic Congress (DC) and other smaller parties to form a new government to replace the current four party coalition which comprises of the ABC, Basotho National Party (BNP), Alliance of Democrats (AD) and the Reformed Congress of Lesotho (RCL). The parties have said they will pursue their agreement to parliament to oust Mr Thabane through a no confidence vote unless he relinquishes immediately.
If passed into law, then Mr Thabane would be effectively curtailed from advising King Letsie III to dissolve parliament in the event of a successful no confidence vote against him. In terms of the bill, he can only advise the King to dissolve parliament and call for fresh polls if he has the support of two thirds of the legislators. Without such support, he would have to resign within three days of a no confidence vote.
Several senators including outspoken Chief Khoabane Theko have expressed their support for the bill, saying this would save the country from going for costly elections whenever governments collapsed due to no confidence votes.
“I commit and plead with you honourable members that you vote for this bill as this shall save Lesotho M300 million to M400 million it usually spends on elections even though it is among the least developed countries. This is not for anyone’s personal benefit but for the sake of the nation,” Chief Theko said on Thursday.
Another senator, Chief Seeiso Bereng Seeiso, said the bill did not target a specific prime minister but “we are preparing for good governance which will benefit all Basotho”.
“We are taking on a recurring issue (of fresh elections whenever a prime minister loses a no confidence vote) that has impacted negatively on the economy.
“We are a wounded society, with a wound oozing blood and pus at all times. We are divided. A society guided by gossip and not principle and we have a great deficit of a patriotic leadership and Basotho deserve better. The politics of the belly have corrupted us. Let it be written and let it be done,” said Chief Seeiso, a younger brother to King Letsie III.
On Wednesday, Chief Seeiso who, sits on the senate’s legislative committee, told the Sunday Express’ sister Lesotho Times newspaper that the constitutional amendment bill “could not have come at a more opportune time because we can’t always afford to go to elections each time government is troubled and loses a no confidence vote”.
“Our economy cannot afford that (fresh elections whenever a government is toppled through a no confidence vote). It is high time that the King is protected from politicians who always run to him whenever anything goes wrong in the administration,” he said.
On his part, Chief Lesaoana Peete said he supported the bill to prevent politicians from draining the nation’s meagre financial resources through fresh elections whenever governments lost no confidence votes.
The bill was also supported by chiefs Joel Molapo (Leribe), Chief Thato ’Mako Mohale (Tajane), Chief Nthati Bereng (Phamong) and chief Gabasheane Masupha (’Mamathe). It was also supported ABC Senator Kemiso Mosenene.
Several chiefs did not attend Thursday’s senate proceedings with some sources saying this was a tactic to buy time to make up their minds as to whether or not to support the bill.