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Sierra Leone News: Poor Party Showing for Parliamentary Seats

When our representatives in Parliament failed to ably represent their people and got into an unholy alliance with the government, little did many know that most of them will be bowled out wholesale? In the fifty-something grueling years of our existence, most under military and one-party dictatorships, many Sierra Leoneans have not had the opportunity for democratic political socialization or opportunities to gain knowledge about the workings of governance institutions, or actually engage them. Thanks now to civil society for the increase in civic education. Now people in governance are being asked to account to their people.
Parliament happens to be a very important arm of government. It comprises the President, Speaker and Members of Parliament. The key functions of Parliament are: Making of laws; Give authority for taxation and Oversight. As representatives of the people, Parliament has the moral obligation to consult its people on all issues that affect them and should not just pass laws without first consulting the people. This is actually where Parliament sometimes, if not most times step out of tune. We have series of situations in which Parliament did not consult their constituencies before making laws. We can cite the Passport cost increase, the raising of the price of fuel from Le 3,750 to Le6, 000 per litre and the security tax at Lungi Airport. In fact I can hardly remember a situation where Parliamentarians actually consulted their constituents and reported that in Parliament before passing important laws.
If you have been following events leading on to the March 7 2018 elections you must by now know that this time round the electoral landscape is very different. Parliamentarians have stayed at the fore and continue to be there for obvious reasons, even when they are on recess.
The list of nominated Parliamentary candidates is out and it makes very interesting analysis. We have 17 registered political Parties and as such if they fielded the full complement of candidates, each party should have had a total of 132 candidates. In all there should be have been 2244 candidates gunning for 132 ordinary MP seats. What I do not understand is that with all the clamor for parties to be registered, most could not field up to even 50% of candidates. Imagine a party having only 1 candidate for parliament. Why parliament is so important is that it is in Parliament that the people’s aspirations and livelihood options are amplified and translated into laws and oversight of MDAs.
I think a big gap still exist in our electoral laws. The current laws do not make provision for any deadline for the registration of parties so a party can be registered a couple of months to election. I really think a party worth its salt should be registered at least 2 years before elections. This gives enough time for the party structures to be designed and conceptualized. There is a lot of paper work to start a party. Interesting that persons paid from the consolidated fund should resign their position 12 monthe before the election in which they want to participate. Like I keep saying, the PPRC legislative provisions have many gaps which undermine our democratic credibility.
Now for some analysis. Out of a total of 132 seats for the ordinary MPs, only the APC and the SLPP are going for all the 132 seats; next C4C 129 seats, NGC 127 seats and CDP 109 seats, the rest are contesting for less than 50 seats. The rest of the parties are led by ADP with 25 Parliamentary seats followed by the PMDC with 26, NPD 18 and UP 16. Interestingly there are 14 Independent Candidates going for Parliamentary seats. For the rest of the rest of the 8 parties, it is a poor showing ranging from fielding 1 to 6 candidates. These include 6 old Parties. Surprisingly the Unity Party which was among the last of the parties to be registered was able to field 16 candidates for Parliament.
Any patriotic Sierra Leonean should be analyzing how far our pluralism has gone. How can we have 17 political parties which together cannot even field half of the required seats in parliament? Tell me what is the purpose of forming political parties? Are we really serious? We are only succeeding in entrenching the myth that only two political parties will continue to run this country. What is really wrong with our opposition parties? If they want to put the APC and SLPP in opposition is this poor fielding of candidates the strategy? Make no mistake if you cannot win seats in Parliament, you can hardly get your people’s views through in Parliament.
If governance is anything but good, the media and civil Society becomes quite vibrant, that is of course if they are given the right temperature to operate in. We are often told that there are only two types of government, the popular one and the unpopular one. There is no middle of the road stance. Popularity should actually be based on the observance of the attributes of good governance that improves people’s lives, where public services are functioning well. This to a large extent is not the case in Sierra Leone.
One thing that has changed the election narrative is the vibrancy of the social media. This is not to say that there are fanatics and sycophants who will always fuel hate and division. So many people think that the social media is becoming too sensational and unpatriotic. But tell me who do you blame if not those who do not care to make the bad news?
Since the opposition parties could not yet come together to present a single force against the ruling party, we are awaiting the outcome of the coming elections. Well may be the opposition parties are waiting for the anticipated run-off. Well there will only be a run-off if we go by the rules and not buy votes and minimize the incumbency abuses that normally characterize ruling African governments. Good governance should be able to widen people’s choices and their well-being.
By Ben Cambayma
Wednesday February 07, 2018.

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