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What is a constitutional minority government?

AT a press conference on Wednesday the deputy leader of the Democratic Congress (DC) Monyane Moleleki raised the idea of a minority government.
He didn’t say it in many words but the message was clear: the DC might actually be seriously considering forming a minority government.
The consideration is motivated by the fact that the party did not get the 61 seats it required to remain in government.
Suddenly the idea of a minority government is now the talk of town. But what has never been answered is what a minority government really means.
Some experts have rebuked the idea as a dream and a conspiracy to undermine the constitution. But is it really unconstitutional?
An analysis clear indicates that those that say that a minority government are wrong.
The transition from national election to the formation of government has been mishandled by the state apparatus since 1993.
This mismanagement of the constitutional formation of government leaves many people confused as to what is and what is not possible. The grave mistake of the single party dominance has been a failure to codify a procedure from elections to the formation of government, where prime minister’s majority support had always been determined outside parliament.
Section 87(2) of the constitution which has been the target of misinterpretation and distortion by the Speaker of Parliament and indeed other authorities reads as follows: “The King shall appoint as Prime Minister the member of the National Assembly who appears to the Council of State to be the leader of the political party or coalition of political parties that will command the support of a majority of the members of the National Assembly.”
The critical meaning of this section is that the Council of State has to believe that a person elected to be the prime minister is likely to command majority of the lower house of parliament when it convenes.
The prime minister has therefore to be appointed before first sitting of parliament.
This section assumes that a person referred to here could only be a Prime Minister designate, only to be confirmed or rejected when the parliament sits and pronounces itself.
The Council would have advised the King on the basis of communication from the Speaker.
Since the Speaker would not have determined the power configurations in parliament they can only act on the basis of the outcome of elections as communicated by the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) in terms of National Assembly Electoral Act 2011 Section 106(7).
It is in the first meeting of the National Assembly where MPs take oaths; elect the Speaker where the assumed majority contemplated in the section 87(2) should be tested through a formal motion.
This is normally known as a constructive “Motion of No Confidence”.
This does not happen in Lesotho Parliament largely due to lack of procedure and follow through by those responsible.
As the case is in Lesotho, the majority party has always determined who becomes the prime minister either at a hotel or party caucus.
It would be proper to have it done formally in parliament through a motion which indicates which Member voted in the affirmative and who did not.
Upon the collapse of that motion, a person contemplated in section 87(2) of the constitution would then be confirmed.
It is at this stage where a minority government could be formed.
This is done by first reading section 87(2) well for the purposes of appointing a prime minister and then consequently defining the transitional arrangement and codifying the procedure.
A minority government is one that is established by a party that does not have a majority in Parliament.
Some Members of parliament may agree to vote in the affirmative with a party that does not command the majority of the house only on the question of its support to be government.
If this happens, there shall be a constitutional minority government.
It shall be in place for as long as it enjoys the support of majority of Members of Parliament on the issue of confidence.
This means that for it to pass any Bill it will have to convince a sufficient number of MPs.
In other words, the majority of National Assembly Members can decide to have a minority government.
What was described at the press conference as one of the options the party is trying in order to remain in power is not a dream neither is it unconstitutional in Lesotho.
What however is questionable is the politics involved.
Is the DC capable at this stage to convince MPs who are not its members to vote for it to remain in power?
For Monyane Moleleki to get at least the minority government that he aspires, he must convince the Basotho National Party and the rest of opposition parties to shun ABC and Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) or manipulate selected members of ABC and LCD to vote with him on the motion testing and determining power configurations in parliament.
In other words minority government is possible and constitutional but is equally a product of consensus as the coalition government itself.

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