UNDP report expresses disappointment
MASERU – A United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)’s report on the Lesotho’s intra- and inter-party democracy has painted a bleak picture on the country’s political parties and their contribution to democracy.
So bad is the situation that the study has recommended that political parties’ legal framework be amended to provide for deregistration of parties found to be less competitive. Political party registration is provided by the Societies Act of 1966 and the National Assembly Electoral Act 2011.
The two laws have resulted in the country registering a whopping 103 political parties. However, only 40 of the 103 have been registered with the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) and are ready to contest for elections.
But these political parties are said to be lacking the most basic ingredients of an organisation aspiring to lead an economic development of a country.
For that, it is recommended that a comprehensive political party legislation governing not only the formation, management, funding and conduct of the parties be enacted and should provide for de-registration of parties and coalitions.
Lack of coherent constitutions, vibrant structures and absence of policies are some of the challenges facing political parties.
The report also states that “the management of parties based on personalities instead of issue based management is a major Achilles’ heel of parties because they tend to follow a narrow and personal agenda of the leaders.”
As a result, parties lack internal democracy and ability to generate issue-focused programmes. These deficits are said to get carried over into coalition governments resulting into a political instability.
The report further states that “the perverse incentives in the formation of political parties has led to a multiplicity of parties further crowding the field and exacerbating conflict, with poverty fueling the situation as young Basotho see politics as the only viable option for a livelihood.”
Further, coalition formations are said to be based not on ideology and alignment around any core agenda but on political interest and convenience and the impulsive urge to settle political scores.
This results in the coalition dispensation eroding intra-party democracy and aggravated inter-party tensions due to resentment, deep-seated fear, suspicion and serious distrust among politicians.
The present legal framework is failing to adequately deal with the challenges: registration, funding, compliance, and de-registration. Also, an oversight is said to be lacking in that IEC which is charged with the responsibility but does not have resources.
“There is no gainsaying that to arrest the political parties’ instability it currently faces, Lesotho needs to have strong, viable and competitive political parties,”
This, the report states, can be achieved by capacity and enhancing behaviour among parties, a complete paradigm shift in the way in which political parties are managed and technical support which should be extended to individual parties so they can realign their internal systems and structures and institutionalise internal consultative checks and balances.
Key to its recommendations, is the fact that a curriculum must be developed as a matter of urgency before the 2022 general elections with special attention to party systems, party organisation and management, leadership development and leadership skills, policy development and implementation to train party members to in turn have an impact on how parties are managed.