Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lesotho Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili Maneuvers to Stay in Power

Lesotho: Mosisili Manoeuvring

8 March 2012

Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili has bounced back from his effective axing last month as head of the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) to take control of the government with his newly formed Democratic Congress (DC).

His parliamentary victory significantly enhances his prospects in general elections, probably to be held in May.

Mosisili, in office for 15 years, was effectively forced out of the LCD by party secretary general and former Communications Minister Mothetjoa Metsing at a special LCD conference in January (Vol 30 No 3), setting the scene for his removal from government through a vote of no confidence by Metsing’s LCD allies and opposition MPs.But opposition parties withdrew the planned vote from Parliament’s roll, calculating that Mosisili would retain the support of 44 LCD MPs and entice sufficient opposition votes to hold on to power.

As predicted (Vol 30 No 4), Mosisili launched his DC party on 25 February 2012. He then called for a snap “vote of confidence” in the National Assembly, which he won by 63 votes to 53 in the 120-seat assembly. Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai, aclose Mosisili ally, overrode opposition objections that National Assembly rules make no provision for a “vote of confidence” and barred opponents from speaking against the motion, outraged MPs said afterwards.

Mosisili’s 45 former LCD MPs make the DC the biggest of the 10 parties in the National Assembly, enabling him, with the support of 18 opposition MPsout of a total of 58, to form a DC government.

The remnants of the LCD under Metsing are now on the opposition benches. With 17 MPs, it is now Lesotho’s third-biggest party.

Mosisili is banking on maintaining the loyalty of the 70 constituencies that the LCD won nationwide in local elections last year (Vol 29 No 25) to ensure DC supremacy. On the policy front there is nothing to distinguish the two parties. But while Mosisili played fast and loose in Parliament to keep his grip on the government, it is less certain that he will win so easily at the polls.

The CD government is a symbolic arrangement: Parliament is about to be dissolved ahead of national elections in May.

If the nine opposition parties unite with Metsing’s battered LCD, they may muster sufficient support in the elections to ward off a Mosisili victory.

But after 15 years in office Mosisili has near-cult status. If voters put a tick next to the face they know best, Mosisili will be back in office.

Furious protests by the Christian Council of Lesotho and the Lesotho Catholic Bishops’ Conference have forced Mosisili to abandon the cross as DC’s political symbol. Deputy DC leader Monyane Moleleki announced this week the party is replacing the cross with the three-leggedtraditional Basotho pot.

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