WITH RALPH SESAY
Sierra Leoneans went to the polls on the March 7th 2018 general elections very much divided and highly polarized. The voting pattern is very much divisive and does not make for national cohesion.
The voting patterns of the All People’s Congress (APC) and the Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) – the traditional political parties – have clearly divided the country sharply across regional and tribal lines.
The 55% threshold in the country’s 1991 Constitution was created to make way for a highly inclusive voting, leading to the election of the President. I am sure that the framers of the Constitution had wanted one or more regions to take part in the election of the President.
It is also against the fear that a president elected by only two regions would concentrate distribution of wealth, state resources and jobs in those two regions. Even when this is the law people tend to argue that this has not helped the huge polarization in the country’s political culture.
This trend has greatly impacted on the country’s human resource, especially the youthful class as they have been rejected in terms of jobs recruitment because they are not members of the ruling party in power or they are from regions that are not in power.
In his organization’s preliminary report on the March polls, Goodluck Jonathan, former Nigerian President and Head of the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy (EISA), had recommended that the in-coming government looks into the 55% threshold law as it does not make for inclusiveness in the country’s legal environment. He stated that this creates unnecessary tension in elections and that most countries are now using the 50 + 1 % to select their presidents.
The voting pattern, in the March 7th polls, shows that out of the 75% of polling stations already counted, the south and east have overwhelmingly voted with a total of 794,161 total votes.
Out of these votes counted from 75% of the polling stations, the SLPP, a party hugely dominated by south easterners, secured a total of 591,047 of the votes from the south-east, with the total accounting for 74% of the south-eastern votes whiles the other fifteen parties, including the APC, account for only 26% of the total votes.
In the north-west block, a total of 1,164,030 votes were cast out of the 75% of votes obtained from this percentage. The APC had secured a total of 735,956 accounting for 63% of the votes cast. The other fifteen political parties, including the SLPP, secured 37% of these votes.
The NGC, also headed by a northerner and former UNIDO Chief, had secured a huge chunk of votes from only the north, to a point that they secured 6.9% of the 75% of polling centers counted and an abysmal low voter turnout in the south-east even when they had an easterner, Engineer Andrew Kailie, as running mate together with several other party executives hailing from the east.
Former Vice President, Samuel Sam Sumana, has also bagged sympathy from his Kono hometown, securing to date a total of 67, 132, accounting for 3.43% of the 75% polling stations counted.
Other parties, like the SLPP and APC, that used to bag huge votes from the area, suffered a humiliating defeat, trailing behind the four months old C4C.
There are even rumours that the party (C4C) had taken over 80% of the parliamentary seats in the area, including the Mayoral and District Chairman seats.
This is hugely divisive and does not make for national cohesion and peace. In fact, this is why it is very expedient that the incoming regime gets down to seriously working towards adopting another from of Government rather than the Presidential system.
Some are advocating for a federal system model, making all the five regions: Western Rural, Western Urban, North West, North East, South and East conducting separate regional elections for representatives to a central authority.
Resources and distribution of the country’s wealth would also take this pattern as representatives from these areas would bring development to the respective areas. This would ease tensions in the country and would avoid the winner takes all scenario currently operating in our country’s political landscape.
It is crystal clear that the very high tensions accompanying elections is largely because of the fear that whichever side of the political divide wins, the national would cake go to the winner’s side and the other areas starved.
National cohesion and unity is very critical for development. Both the ruling party and opposition party candidates have acknowledged that the country is highly polarized and have promised in their political campaigns that they would do all in their best to bring the country together.
The current Constitutional Review process, which has been bastardized by the APC, should be reviewed to address this issue. We should be able to have a national dialogue around this issue in order to save our country from further conflict. Civil Society organizations should be able to provoke national consultations around this issue.
What has been the most unfortunate part is the role of the traditional media and the so-called civil society in the country. They are themselves part of the problem so they cannot do anything to solve it.
The Religious leaders that are the moral guarantors of our peace only intervene when there is a serious threat to national peace and security, but would dare not come out clear to condemn wrongdoings by the Government and respective political leaders.