Reforms: Electoral model must be our first port of call


Thulo Hoeane

LESOTHO’S Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) electoral  model is arguably one of the most cumbersome areas of our political life that we need to re–visit as we ponder the multi–sectoral reforms process that this country is about to embark upon to ensure a lasting solution to our perennial political instability.

Conceived in the aftermath of the political chaos of 1998 the MMP model hangs to this day around our necks like a milestone and is most likely responsible for the political dilemma that we are faced with. In essence the MMP model was designed and conceived by the election losers of the 1998 poll to ensure a slice of the political cake for themselves notwithstanding their rejection by the electorate.

The narrative that they pushed was that in spite of the fact that the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) had won sixty per cent of the vote after winning all sixty five constituencies there was what they called a substantial number of Basotho who had not voted for the Ntsu Mokhehle led LCD leaving them without a say in parliament. On that basis alone they then went on to argue that the First-Past-the-Post (FPP) model was out of sync with their agenda that every party big and small should get a bite of the political cherry.

Central to this argument is the negation of what democracy is essentially about. We then saw the number of constituencies increase from 65 to 80 to broaden the playing field to allow for some parliamentary space for the losing parties. With the creation of more constituencies chances are they would make it into parliament.

Under tremendous pressure form the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Ntsu Mokhehle caved in and gave in to the demands for a reformation of the electoral system. The LCD had no choice because it was after all the military intervention of SADC that had ensured its survival in the face of a political assault by the opposition. The ruling party was virtually negotiating at gun point. And that was the end of democracy as we had known it in this country.

The aftermath of that gun boat diplomacy gave birth to another monstrosity in the form of an unelected entity aptly named the Independent Political Authority (IPA) ostensibly to disguise its true political usurper status. And so it was that as Lesotho went to the polls in 2002 the political landscape had radically been altered.

But lest we forget the MMP model had created even more room for constituency losers in the nature of an additional 40 Proportional Representation (PR) seats which saw parliament swell to 120 members. The devil of all this this is in the detail.

The MMP model has ensured that political minnows with not a hope of winning even in their home constituencies have made it into the top echelons of government in spite of their evident non – status courtesy of this  MMP monster.

If democracy is rule by the majority – a tenet of every democratic society – the MMP model is anything but that. It compensates election losers and helps to resuscitate the political fortunes of political fossils that we ought to have forgotten about years ago but who still straddle our political landscape masquerading as genuine politicians.  I will desist from naming and shaming the beneficiaries of this unfortunate state of affairs. They are known just too well and are too many to enumerate here.

It is really an insult that politicians who have polled something in the region of 20 plus miserable votes have at one time or another made it to parliament, became ministers and have rubbed shoulders on an equal footing with genuine politicians who have shown their mettle over the years by winning over voters in their thousands.

The average voter in this country – and there are hundreds of thousands of them – has no idea how the 40 PR seats are computed. The mathematics involved is Greek to the average voter. The computation only makes sense to a few who have made it long enough in the classroom to grasp the proportionality involved. Let us do away with the MMP model.


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