By: Chernor Bah (Malema)
Demands by the ruling SLPP to amend the electoral process are becoming louder as a Government Election reforms white paper has been launched, although there is an expected furore to break out owing to the ripple effects such system will cost the Country’s Democracy. The ruling SLPP has in a white paper proposed for both proportional representation, and 50+1% electoral system.
In taking a cursory look into the said systems it’s very much important to examine whether the choice of such electoral systems in a culturally plural society like Sierra Leone can affect the potential for future conflict. It’s sacrosanct that there is no single electoral system that is likely to be best for a divided society like SierraLeone, but it is true that every political system to be introduced in a country like ours should be formed on the bases of our societal realities at the time; for it is no doubt that there exist a serious regional and tribal divide into the body politics of the country. In a country that has been exponentially divided politically, the electoral systems we implore can be powerful levers for shaping the content and practice of our politics. The Consideration of the relationship between these variables are very pivotal to the selection and operation of any electoral system design. The set of democratic systems a nation adopts is thus integral to the long-term prospects of any new regime as they structure the rules of the game of political competition.
In terms of deeply ethnically divided societies, Sierra Leone for example, where ethnicity represents a fundamental political cleavage, particular electoral systems can reward candidates and parties who act in a cooperative, accommodatory manner to rival groups; or they can reward those who appeal only to their own ethnic group. However, the “spin” which an electoral system gives to the system is ultimately contextual. That said, it is important not to overestimate the power of elections and electoral systems to resolve deep-rooted enmities. 50+1% : A Bastion For The Continued Tribal Division In Sierra Leone’s Body Politics! Finance has been the ratio for the proposed 50+1% Presidential electoral System to avoid run offs as the government believed it’s difficult for any political party to pull 55% in the first ballot; only a failed incumbent will hold such belief. In 2002 the late Alhaji Ahmed TejanKabba pulled over 55% in the first ballot, and Former President Koroma replicated same in 2012 as incumbent of which he pulled over 55% of valid votes counted. So the fear for run off of a political party not pulling 55% in the first ballot is a gimmick as there has been a precedent as recent in 2002 and 2012.
As stated in my opening paragraphs that every electoral political system should conform with the prevailing realities in the Country. It’s no secret that Sierra Leone’s political system is deeply rooted to ethnic and regional lines; the South and South-East are said to be the strong holds of the ruling SLPP, and the North, North-West and the Western Area are said to be the strong holds of the Main Opposition APC. Almost every Political party in Sierra Leone is aligned and tied to a particular Tribe(s) region(s), and District (s). These are the sad realities that we’re being faced with as a nation just like many other African States. So the drafters of the constitution were very wise and forsighted to have incorporated the 55% for a Presidential Candidate to be declared winner in the first ballot; this was logically a way of coercing every political party to have a national flavour as no one Tribe, Region or fewer Districts can give 55% of the vote to any political party. This will make parties to integrate in every region and District if they want to win any Presidential election in the first ballot. Another important reality we must not loose sight of is the fact that Sierra Leone Practices Multi Party System where the political space must be created for other smaller and emerging Political Parties in the Country. What will be the fate of third force parties with a 50+1% system? It’s obvious they wouldn’t survive.
Who Does the 50+1% favour?
I have seen and read plethora of pieces and comments in relation to the aforementioned with a cursory look. Many hold the view that the ratio behind the Proposed 50+1% is for an ease of rigging the 2023 elections, and also to garner an easy win for the SLPP. The intent of rigging I would question not owing to the fact that the ruling SLPP is not in obliviousness of the reality that a free and fair 2023 elections would not give them a second term. But having the intention is one thing, and the possible effectuation of such plan is another. On the other hand it’s a mere political joke and miscalculation for the SLPP to thinking that the introduction of the 50+1% will give them a victory in the 2023 Presidential election. Infact, the 50+1% system shall make it more easier for the main opposition APC in winning the 2023 elections. No matter the political or Voting System the SLPP introduced, the 2023 election is a loosing battle already. Patriotic Sierra Leoneans are not actually care about what party the 50+1% system will favour or not; the adverse effect it will have on Sierra Leone’s Democratic dispensation is what matters to them. The interconnectedness between/among political parties, ethnicities, regions and the coexistence of a political space for the continued operation of other political parties other than the APC and the SLPP must not be swept under the carpet as they form the thrust of our democracy’s furtherance.