Prime Minister Thabane stripped off powers to dissolve parliament

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By Billy Ntaote

Lesotho’s Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, unlike his predecessors will now not be able to dissolve parliament and take the country to a fresh election if he loses a vote of no confidence in parliament.

This is after the April 28 vote by members of the Senate giving thumps up to a landmark 9th amendment to the Lesotho constitution that striped-off the Prime Minister’s executive powers to either choose to resign or dissolve parliament and call fresh election if he loses a vote of no confidence.

Now, if current Prime Minister Thabane loses a vote of no confidence, he cannot advise the King to dissolve parliament and call a fresh election unless such an advice for dissolution of parliament is supported by a “resolution of two thirds majority of the members of the National Assembly of Lesotho”.

The Senate, a second chamber in Lesotho’s bicameral parliamentary system, vote came as the last leg for the ninth constitutional amendment to run through, before it receives royal assent from King Letsie III.

For the bill to pass into law, a two thirds majority was required as it amended double entrenched sections of the constitution of Lesotho.

In their voting, 24 senators voted for the bill to pass, two (2) declined, five (5) abstained from the vote as their names were called and one (1) was absent during the vote in the country’s 33-member Senate.

The successful passing of the bill paves way for a possible removal of Prime Minister Thabane and installation of his successor without the country going for another election.

A new deal for the reconfiguration of government has already been sealed by a dissatisfied faction leading Thabane’s party All Basotho Convention and the opposition party Democratic Congress.

The faction wants Thabane out of office as in yesterday on the basis that he has not only shown intentions to retire but has also lost control of government.

However, Thabane has since denounced the new deal meant to reconfigure government as treasonous as he remains a sitting prime minister, this is amid his announcement of intentions to retire by end of July.

In the past week, a delegation from the Office of the President of the Republic of South Africa visited Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Botswana and will this week be in Zambia to consult and inform the Southern African Development Community’s Organ on Politics Defence and Security Cooperation about developments in Lesotho and a decision safeguarding “Thabane’s dignified retirement” amid political skirmishes on the ground in Lesotho.

The bill seems calculated to pave way for both Thabane to step down while also paving way for parliament to easily remove him from office in vote of no confidence without risking dissolution of parliament, thereby fixing term of parliament.

The ninth amendment to the constitution bill came as a that occasional private members bill to Lesotho’s parliament initiated by Advocate Lekhetho Rakuoane, leader of the popular front for Democracy.

In its statement of object and reasons, the ninth constitutional amendment bill, Rakuoane said he proposes that the amendment plays a more meaningful role in the dissolution of parliament especially in circumstances where the prime minister wishes to advise the King to dissolve parliament or where a vote of no confidence is passed in the government of Lesotho.

Rakuoane said the bill proposes that the prime minister should not advise the King to dissolve parliament unless he has obtained majority support of the members of the National Assembly.

Rakuoane said currently the Prime Minister has two options where a vote of no confidence is passed upon his government in that he may either resign from his office within three days after the passage of the vote of no confidence or he may advise His Majesty the King to dissolve parliament.

He said the bill proposes to give him one option only, that is, he has to resign from his office as Prime Minister.

Furthermore, Rakuoane said the bill also provides for a mechanism for the appointment of a new prime minister where the incumbent dies while in office or resign from office depending on the period left before the next general election.

Commenting on the bill prior to its passage, Senator Peete Lesaoana Peete said the bill shall safeguard the King from political conflicts that have engulfed the country and rendered it unstable.

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