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Elections/Campaign Reform

Elections/Campaign Reform

The suit filed by the SLPP candidate Bubuakei Jabbie over the last few weeks brings out the flaws in our electoral system, from pre-campaigning to actual elections. What catches the eye is the refusal of the parties to hold elections of their executive members in mid term. There seems to be a serious distaste for elections for party executives, using any excuse to call on emergency clauses when there are no emergencies. It is not easy to fathom such behavior coming from, supposedly, democratic institutions. The lawsuit could have been avoided if the SLPP had simply followed their own party rules. Rather there were all kinds of emergency meetings, caucusing etc. to avoid something which they knew they had to do. If the theory is that the existing executive was good enough, then it should have been a cake walk to elect the new executive. There could have been unopposed seats for many. Democratic institutions are founded on the voting process. The interesting part about it is that to some extent the ruling party, APC, is also guilty of not going through the process, of actually electing a new executive when it was supposed to. No surprise then when Presidents get elected they want to follow the same path of “general agreement” vs democratically held elections. I do believe that this same attitude of “talking things out” is mere coercion of the weak. In a poor country like Sierra Leone, I do believe that any government can make a good run for bringing back one party rule, de facto or actual. The end result may be civil war (again), but it is not to be ruled out because I do not feel the top “leaders” in the country, regardless of party support, take the plight of the people seriously.  (Photo: Sewanu Kponou)

The number of candidates for the position of SLPP flag bearer is unprecedented, in Sierra Leone, but not completely out of place. In a real democracy anyone can toss their hat in the ring if they qualify. The way in which these people are decided by the parties is what gives me pause. The selection process would be better served if all candidates, presidential and parliamentary, were given a ballot box at a polling station, at a primary election to decide party representatives. The present system of “awarding” party symbols for election, should be eliminated. The present awarding of symbols gives too much sway to the top echelons of the party, who tend to be old and may have lost contact with the general populace. The candidates will be better known and skilled at articulating themselves in front of the electorate, if they have to fight it out at the ballot box, and prepared for the general elections. This method also gives the Electoral Commission a practice/test run at the methods to be used in the ensuing general elections, since general elections are held just once every five years.

The post of party chairman should be a post that is totally and completely separate from the President. There are so many distractions running a country as poor as Sierra Leone that is does not make sense to add another distraction of running a party, full of sycophants and back stabbers. (I believe that all parties are guilty of this.)   President as party Chairperson, (female someday) amounts to too much power consolidated in the hands of one person. Trying to decide every little “case” is so distracting there is no time for state affairs. All Presidents go through it.

Campaign contributions are a definite way of influencing national and party politics. At present there are no limits to what anyone can contribute to their party. Due to the lack of transparency, no one ever knows how much a party leader, at all levels, collects on behalf of his or her party. There is no information also about how elections are financed. After elections tongues start wagging about which minister donated the equivalent of tens, or hundreds, of thousand of US$. Naturally none of this is ever corroborated. The point being made is that there is the natural tendency to award top positions, to top contributors. We therefore need a lot more legislation to counter these tendencies by enabling contribution limits and asking for auditing, transparently, all political parties. I do believe that there are numerous countries worldwide that Sierra Leone can learn from.

On a closing note it is sad that once again the Open Government Initiative bill has met it’s rather predictable end in the present parliament. Maybe in the lifetime of my great grand children, such a bill would be approved.

By Sewanu Kponou, Atlanta Ga.

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  • No legal system is perfect.All laws have flaws to some degree or otherwise,If every critical issue has to be challenged in court, then the political parties will have a hard times focusing on other important issues that could increase their chances to be victorious in 2012 The SLPP flagbearership is becoming cancerous at best to the advantage of APC’s smooth sail in 2012. When are we going to have time to get the legal matters over,get a flagbearer,reconcile aspirants diferences for unity and cohesion, raise funds for campaigning before elections? Sometimes, the display of our intelectual talents especially in the court of law can be dissaterous if the motives are not genuine. i CAN SEE IT COMING!!!

    26th April 2011

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