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Head-ache as two parties share equal seats

Leader of AD Monyane Moleleki

April 30, 2021 4 min read

4 min read

THE sudden defection of two Members of Parliament for the Alliance of Democrats (AD) to the ruling Democratic Congress (DC) has left the National Assembly with a serious snag as to which party should be the official leader of opposition.

This is so because the number of seats for AD has dropped from 13 to 11 following the departure of two MPs, including Mokherane Tsatsanyane of Stadium Area and Tele’s Mothepu Mahapa.

Both the AD and the Lesotho Congress for Democracy (LCD) have equal number of seats.

Professor Motlamelle Kappa of the National University of Lesotho (NUL) says when analyzing politics, the only thing to look at are principles.

He says an MP becomes the official leader of opposition when his party has majority of seats in Parliament.

Hence, he notes it is not clear who between AD’s Monyane Moleleki and Mothetjoa Metsing of LCD will became the leader of opposition as they share equal number of seats in the House.

“Let’s wait and see what the Speaker of Parliament has to say about this,” Prof Kappa suggests.  

The principle here, he notes is different from the case of the constituency where if there is a gap, as the Constitution stipulates that by-elections should be held.

He added however, that the people who are on the ground should know better.

For his part, Prof Hoolo ’Nyane,  a Constitutional Law expert from the University of Limpopo in South Africa, says there is no direct precedent in Lesotho for a situation where two second largest parties in Parliament were equal in numerical strength.

“But if such parties have equal number of seats in Parliament, the status quo should remain the same,” he says.

Prof ’Nyane says in order for the LCD to lay a successful claim to the position, it will have to demonstrate that either on its own or in coalition with other parties, it has surpassed AD with numerical strength.

“It is the first time that we have this scenario in Lesotho's parliamentary practice, where two political parties with second numerical strength to the government are themselves equal,” he says.

He notes that the nearest the country has had was the 2017 case when the current Deputy Prime Minister Mathibeli Mokhothu was at the time the leader of opposition in Parliament and after the 2017 General Election, he lost two MPs to AD.

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LCD leader Mothetjoa Metsing

The MPs in question included Mahapa and Tlohelang Aumane of Semena.

’Nyane says Mokhothu then dropped below the official mark following the defection of the two.

He adds that the Speaker told Mokhothu that he had to forfeit his position in Parliament because he did not have the required number of seats.

The other parties, he says, pledged their support to Mokhothu in order to remain as the leader of the House.

But the Speaker, Sephiri Motanyane refused to budge, citing the ruling that was made by former Speaker Ntlhoi Motsamai after the 2007 election.

Mokhothu consequently took the matter to court where a ruling was made in his favour.

The court decided that if the other parties joined forces to help Mokhothu become the leader, so there should not be any hurdles.

Prof ’Nyane says the good interpretation of the law in the stalemate between AD and LCD is that the status quo should remain.

The position, he further shows should belong to a single party or a coalition of parties having the second numerical strength in the National Assembly.

“If LCD cannot demonstrate that it is the second largest party, either on its own or in coalition with others, then the status quo should remain,” Prof ’Nyane reiterates.

Prof Makoa share similar sentiments with regards the status quo, adding that unless Metsing complains.

“Still, it will not only be with Metsing’s complaint, but it will depend on what the other smaller parties say and the Speaker has to resolve this issue,” he says, insisting that Moleleki has to remain as leader of the House.


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