The kingdom of Lesotho : an assessment of problems in democratic consolidation

Monyane, Chelete (2009-12)

Thesis (DPhil (Political Science))--Stellenbosch University, 2009.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The main problem investigated in this study is why a homogeneous nation with a high literacy rate such as Lesotho has had so many breakdowns of democracy since independence in 1966. Lesotho is completely surrounded and economically dependent on South Africa and depends mostly on the external sources of income (migrant remittances, customs revenues and foreign aid). Why has this democracy not consolidated? For the assessment of the consolidation of Lesotho’s democracy, this study adopted the multivariate model of Bratton and Van de Walle. This model uses institutional as well as socio-economic variables. In the application of this model various other authors were used as well. Schedler dealt with the concept of breakdowns, whereas Linz and Stepan emphasised institutions and Przeworski et. al and Leftwich also utilised multivariate models, including socio-economic factors. Upon the attainment of independence, the King became a constitutional monarch within a parliamentary system. The monarchy was from the beginning of independence uncomfortable with this status that granted him limited powers. The democratic regime inaugurated with the 1965 elections lasted only till 1970, when the ruling party under Chief Leabua Jonathan which did not support the monarchy, declared the election results invalid and suspended the constitution after his ruling party lost to the opposition. But Chief Leabua Jonathan was toppled from state power in 1986 by the military. The military ruled for eight years. It was clear that the monarchy (eager for executive powers) and the military became factors in the survival of democracy in Lesotho. Democratic rule was relaunched in 1993. The 1993 and 1998 elections were followed by violent power struggles. This time the constituency-based electoral system served as catalyst for the political crises and was blamed. This is because seats did not reflect electoral support as opposition parties were not adequately represented in parliament. Constitutional reforms followed and in 2002 democratic rule was reintroduced. The 2002 and 2007 elections were conducted under the Mixed Member Proportional (MMP) system, which is a hybrid between constituencyiv based and proportional representation. Despite the electoral reforms, uncertainties still remained as the result of escalating socio-economic problems. This study addresses the ways in which the monarchy, the military, the electoral system and the socio-economic factors contributed to the breakdown of democracy in Lesotho. The original aspect of this study lies in the novel set of questions that have not been asked before. It fills the gap in the literature on the 2007 elections and the workings of the new electoral system by comparing the 2002 and the 2007 elections. Despite the constitutional reforms in 2002, the 2007 elections resulted in the new set of problems. The problem of the Lesotho MMP system is how it has to be operationalised and the lack of understanding among the politicians and electorates on how it works. This situation is exacerbated by the absence of legal and clear guidelines on how the translation of votes into seats– especially for candidates under proportional representation (PR) – has to be undertaken in cases where there are coalitions between parties. This institutional reform of the electoral system has not added any value for the development of democracy as losing parties have refused to adhere to the rules. Apart from the electoral system, some of the other core problems are older and institutional. The monarchy has over the years been at the root of some of the country’s democratic breakdowns. It also had influence in the military. The military instituted a period of authoritarianism and managed the transition to democratic rule in the early 1990s.The monarchy and the military continued to destabilise the post- 1993 democratic governments until 1998, after which the electoral system was reformed. But the problems are not only institutional. Lesotho is a democracy with low per capita income. It also has high levels of inequalities as well as high unemployment. Lesotho also has one of the highest HIV/Aids rates in Southern Africa. The country performs poorly when measured against aspects of the United Nations Human Development Index (HDI) such as life expectancy, mortality rates and standard of living. It is the poorest country, with the lowest HDI of Southern Africa’s “free nations”, according to Freedom House. These socio-economic problems have impacted negatively on the prospects of democratic consolidation. One positive aspect is the high literacy rate of over 80%. But this has not benefited Lesotho’s democracy in any meaningful way as most of its educated people are working in South Africa. The country does not have a sizeable middle class, while civil society, except for churches, is also weak. While the monarchy and military have been successfully depoliticised, Lesotho’s democracy remains unconsolidated because of weaknesses in the electoral system (lack of understanding of its operationalisation) and continuing problems of socio-economic development. Its ethnic homogeneity is not an asset either as other divisions have recurred all the time. The overall conclusion is therefore that although most institutional factors responsible for democratic breakdowns in the past have been overcome, the socioeconomic variables such as poverty, weak civil society, small middle class and socio-economic inequality will hinder consolidation for a long time to come.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Die hoofprobleem wat in hierdie studie ondersoek word, is hoekom ’n homogene nasie met ’n hoë geletterdheidsyfer soos Lesotho, soveel onderbrekings (“breakdowns”) van die demokrasie sedert onafhanklikwording beleef het. Vir die beoordeling van konsolidasie van Lesotho se demokrasie is van ’n model van multivariëteit gebruik gemaak. Dit is gebaseer op die denke van Bratton en Van de Walle wat van sowel institusionele as sosio-ekonomiese veranderlikes gebruik maak. Die konsep van afbreuk (“breakdown”) is van Schedler afkomstig. Linz en Stepan maak uitsluitlik van institusionele veranderlikes gebruik, terwyl Przeworski et. al en Leftwich ook van multi-veranderlikes gebruik maak. Hulle denke het die teoretiese raamwerk van hierdie studie gevorm. Heeltemal omring deur, en afhanklik van Suid-Afrika, word die Koninkryk van Lesotho geteister deur politieke onstabiliteit. Die koning het ’n grondwetlike monargie binne ’n parlementêre stelsel geword. Die monargie was egter sedert die begin van onafhank-likheid ongemaklik hiermee. Die demokratiese regime het in 1965 met verkiesings tot stand gekom. Maar dit het slegs tot 1970 geduur toe die regerende party van Hoofman Leabua Jonathan die verkiesing verloor het, en die grondwet opgeskort het. Hyself is in 1986 in ’n staatsgreep deur die weermag omvergewerp. Dit was toe reeds duidelik dat die monargie en die militêre faktore in die oorlewing van demokrasie in Lesotho geword het. Demokratiese regering is in 1993 heringestel. Die 1993 en 1998 verkiesings het egter weer geweld opgelewer. Nou was die kiesafdeling-gebaseerde kiesstelsel geblameer omdat setels nie met steun vir partye gekorreleer het nie. Grondwetlike hervormings is ingestel waarna demokrasie weer in 2002 heringestel is. Die verkiesings van 2002 en 2007 het onder reëls van ’n hibriede stelsel van proposionele verteenwoordiging sowel as kiesafdelings plaasgevind. Daar was stabiliteit, maar onsekerhede was as gevolg van ingewikkeldhede van die stelsel wat nie opgelos is nie. Die studie ontleed die rol van die monargie, die weermag, die kiesstelsel en vlak van sosio-ekonomiese ontwikkeling in die opeenvolgende demokratiese ineenstortings in Lesotho. Die oorspronklikheid van hierdie studie is dat vrae gestel word wat nog nie voorheen met betrekking tot Lesotho gedoen is nie. Dit vul dus ’n gaping in die literatuur, ook wat die onlangse verkiesings van 2007 betref. Ten spyte van die grondwetlike hervormings van 2002, het die 2007 verkiesings nuwe probleme opgelewer. Die probleem is dat sowel die kiesers as die politici nie altyd verstaan hoe die formules van die hibriede stelsel werk nie. Daar is ook ’n afwesigheid van riglyne oor hoe om stemme in setels om te sit waar kaolisies deelgeneem het. Afgesien van die verkiesingstelsel, is van die ander probleme ouer, maar ook institusioneel van aard. Die monargie soos hierbo gestel, is deel van hierdie probleme. Dit het soos aangedui ook ’n invloed op die militêre gehad. Beide het die demokrasie gedestabiliseer tot ná 1993 en 1998, waarna die nuwe verkiesingstelsel nuwe probleme opgelewer het. Die probleme in Lesotho is egter nie net van ’n institusionele aard nie. Lesotho is ’n arm demokrasie met lae per capita inkome, hoë ongelykhede en werkloosheid, asook van die hoogste HIV/Vigs syfers in Suider Afrika. Lesotho vaar ook swak op die Verenigde Nasies se Menslike Ontwikkelingsindeks. Dit is ook die armste van Freedom House se nasies wat as “vry” geklassifiseer word. ’n Positiewe aspek is die hoë geletterdheidsyfer van 80%. Maar dit het Lesotho oënskynlik nie gehelp om die demokrasie volhoubaar te maak nie. Die land het byvoorbeeld nie ’n beduidende middelklas nie, terwyl die burgerlike samelewing met uitsondering van die kerke, ook swak is. Terwyl die monargie en die militêre deesdae gedepolitiseer is, is die demokrasie nog nie gekonsolideer nie. Die redes hiervoor is die probleme met die kiesstelsel en voortgesette lae ekonomiese ontwikkeling. Etniese homogeniteit is ook skynbaar nie ’n bate nie, want ander verdelings ontstaan deurentyd. Die hoofkonklusie van hierdie studie is dus dat alhoewel Lesotho die institusionele faktore wat vir demokratiese afbreuk in die verlede verantwoordelik was oorkom het, die sosio-ekonomiese veranderlikes soos armoede, swak burgerlike samelewing, klein middelklas en ongelykheid steeds konsolidasie nog vir ’n lang tyd sal belemmer.

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