The Course Of Electoral Democracy In Lesotho

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Democracy as a form of government is desired by all nations of the world because, in principle, it serves as a representative government for all, irrespective of tribe, religion, and beliefs.

In the developing nations of Africa, democracy has been embraced but has been laced with different issues affecting its stability. These issues include a lack of good governance, corruption, and political as well as economic demands, to mention a few.

While there is no perfect form of democracy anywhere in the world, every nation has adopted a form of a political system that works for it in implementing its democracy.

Such is the case of Lesotho with its electoral democracy, which is a representative democracy based on electoral votes.

The Lesotho Government is a constitutional monarchy or parliamentary government headed by the Prime Minister, vested with executive authority.

Though the country got its independence in 1966, Lesotho lacked the willpower and commitment to be a Democratic nation until 1993, when it became a formal constitutional democracy.

In the following years after that, many events shook the foundations of the country’s democracy. However, it overcame and stands till now, albeit on a level where public trust in elections and the system have waned.

One of the crucial elements of institutionalised democratic governance is the electoral systems of such a country, as the type of system adopted by any nation has the innate ability to enhance or inhibit democratic control and stability.

For Lesotho, the prominent thing that has featured in its constitutional democracy since independence is electoral discontent. But, on the other hand, disagreement over the electoral system by parties is a relatively recent manifestation brought about by electoral reforms of the early 2000s, which anchored a two-ballot, mixed-member proportional electoral system for the country.

The transition to this new system was occasioned by the manipulation of electoral laws, which led to further reforms in the run-up to the 2012 elections, which again resulted in the single-ballot mixed-member proportional system.

Presently, Lesotho’s electoral system is a mixed-member proportional system, which has a touch of the parliamentary system in it and makes it difficult for any party to dominate or have an absolute majority.

While this has been counted as a disadvantage over the years, it also means that all parties can secure a seat in the National Assembly once they get reasonable support and votes.

Over the years, there have been contentions that Lesotho, unlike some other African countries has been courageous to introduce various changes to its electoral system aimed at strengthening its democratic principles and structures.

However, the reforms have not been out rightly beneficial in helping the goals of democratic stability and political inclusiveness among others, because rather than build the confidence of citizens over the years, the electoral system has further created a wide gap between the constituted authorities which are the elected representatives and the governed.

This is reflected in declining voter turnout since 1993. In 2017, voter turnout was 46.4% while it dropped further to 37.7% in 2022.

This distrust in elected representatives, political parties, and the entire electoral system can be traced to poor governance, corruption, and the perception that representatives serve their interests at the expense of the larger national purpose.

Although elections are not the only ingredient of democracy, it is generally accepted that they play a crucial role in deepening and sustaining democratic governance.

For a country like Lesotho, which has over the years cultivated the political culture of factionalism and constant conflict, with its political atmosphere often tagged as confrontational, getting it right in terms of elections will go a long way to reassure its citizenry that the government means well for the nation.

While the various choices of systems adopted over the years have played major roles and had dire consequences on the democratic structure in Lesotho, it is worth noting that other factors also contributed to the unsavoury political situations along the line.

But in all of these, the Independent Electoral Commission in Lesotho plays a major role in ensuring that things get better.

It has continuously engaged in voter education and registration to get the majority of the people to take an active participatory role in electing their representatives.

While this might not be paying off at the moment, it is expected that in the long run, it will yield results that will turn the country’s political landscape positively and make it run an effective democratic system for the good of all.

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