Political dinosaurs and the politics of boycott

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LAST week the leader of the main opposition All Basotho Convention (ABC) party called on Lesotho’s political parties to boycott the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC).

Thabane accused the electoral body of bias particularly over the manner it handled last month’s by-elections in Mpharane, Sebapolo and Hololo.

His party suffered a thorough drubbing in those by-elections.

Thabane accused the IEC of tampering with election results in favour of the ruling Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) party.

He went further to accuse the electoral body of “keeping in its computers predetermined results” that they allegedly release after every election.

We think these are serious allegations as they have the potential to undermine the electorate’s confidence in the IEC and its ability to run free and fair elections.

We also think the allegations are too serious to ignore and as such Thabane should provide evidence to substantiate the claims.

In the absence of such evidence we are inclined to dismiss Thabane’s complaints as ramblings of a bitter man who cannot take defeat on the chin.

For the record, party agents from all contesting parties signed for the results at every stage of the electoral process.

We therefore find it quite strange that Thabane can now turn around and allege that they were cheated of victory in the by-elections when his election agents signed for the results.

We think the opposition must acknowledge that they indeed have problems within their own ranks instead of looking for the “witch” outside their home.

Thabane is an eloquent speaker.

In fact, he is among the sharpest brains in the country. When he speaks, he sometimes makes sense.

But the man should be careful that he does not stoke the fires of hatred by coming up with bizarre claims that are not substantiated.

Such wild claims will damage his credibility as a serious politician who is ready to govern.

As we have argued in our previous editorials, we prefer to have a strong and vibrant opposition that can play its role in a democratic society.

Such a strong opposition can act as a bulwark against government excesses.

An anaemic, disorganised opposition cannot be in a position to play this role effectively.

Rather than deal with problems in their own ranks our opposition leaders are quick to find scapegoats — in this case the IEC — for their own dismal failures.

This, in our opinion, explains why the opposition is in this sorry state.

This is our major gripe with the opposition. They appear thoroughly disorganised.

We think the problem is a lack of clear strategic thinking on how to wrest power from the LCD government.

Besides, boycott as a political strategy has never worked in the African context.

In what way would a boycott serve opposition interests?

For Thabane to call for such a strategy clearly shows that he has reached a dead-end.

Not surprisingly, Thabane received backing from that political dinosaur — Metsing Lekhanya — the leader of the Basotho National Party (BNP).

“We are very hurt and the pain might lead us to resort to undemocratic means to get what we want because democratic means seem to be failing us,” Lekhanya warned.

This should be quite chilling coming from a man who seized political power in a bloodless coup in 1986.

We think it is recklessness on Lekhanya’s part to threaten to resort to “undemocratic means” to get what he wants.

The threat could also show that the former soldier is clearly out of touch with modern realities.

The time for military coups and undemocratic ways of changing governments is long gone.

Instead of threatening to seize power through undemocratic means our opposition leaders should be busy crafting strategies to market their parties ahead of the forthcoming general elections in 2012.

We think they should go back to the drawing board if they are to stay relevant.

Otherwise they are doomed.

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