Proportional representation revisited – a case for greater political participation in Sierra Leone politics
Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie Esq: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 12 July 2022:
The timely issues today as we approach another round of elections in our growing democracy are the violent trend of our youth in parliamentary bye elections, the complicity of political leaders in that disease, the challenges to our Courts and above all – the growing threat posed by these anomalies. in our developing democracy.
The case for the President and the Sierra Leone Electoral Commission (ECSL) aka National Electoral Commission (NEC) to request section 38A of the Constitution of Sierra Leone (Amendment) Act No. 15 of 2001 is more compelling now than any other period since the 2002 Presidential and Parliamentary elections. Dr Julius Spencer’s brilliant explanation of the merits of this not-so-novel electoral concept on the eve of our country’s 60th independence anniversary is as honest as it is both inspiring and eye-opening.
Contrary to the generally unbelievable main opposition APC that we might like to believe, Section 38A of the Sierra Leone Constitution (Amendment) Act supra amended 1991 Constitution Act No. 6 of 1991 by adding a new section 38A which established an alternative electoral system of election of Members of Parliament notably the system of representation of the district block in a situation where “… a date for the general election of Members of Parliament are appointed but constituencies are not established in accordance with subsection (3) of section 38 for the purposes of such election, .. ”then in such situation“ .. the President may, after consultation with Electoral Commission, to order that such elections should be conducted on the basis of existing districts in a manner to be recognized as the district block representation system rather than constituencies. ”
Subsection (3) of section 38 of the 1991 Constitution cited above provides that “The boundaries of each jurisdiction shall be that the number of inhabitants therein shall be roughly equal to the population quota reasonably practicable:”, in addition to other factors to be considered in the delineation of the constituents under said 1991 Constitution. Recently, in a further attempt to weaken the president’s authority to hold elections under a PR system on the advice of the Chief Election Commissioner if the situation demands it, the parliamentary leader of the APC opposition recently, in astonishment many have said so. country that Section 38A which gives the President unambiguous and explicit authority is in fact a entrenched clause that requires the consent of the majority of the people in a referendum for it to have the force of law.
Reverend Chernor Bah could not be more wrong and misleading. Section 38 is NOT an entrenched clause; it was amended by adding Section 38A. The entrenched clauses in the Constitution are defined in Subsection 3 of section 108 as follows: Sections 46, 56, 72, 73, 74 (2), 74 (3). 84 (2), 85, 87 105, 111 119, 120, 121, 122,123, 124, 128, 129, 131, 132,133,135,136,137,140,151,15; in addition to section 108 itself and throughout Chapter III of the said Constitution.
It is an undeniable fact that the constituency, which is based on the “first past the post” electoral system, has taken a major step forward in contributing to the continuation of electoral violence, especially during and after the 2007 General and Presidential elections. The reasons for this are so numerous as they are indisputable. In its nature, the constituency -based election system requires the demarcation of a particular mass of land called a constituency, and a definite aspirant called a candidate.
Such a scenario brings the struggling aspirants and their supporters to a faceoff, and puts them on daggers drawn while they are in direct contention for a seat in a particular locality. In this situation where the stakes are high and emotions are at a liquid level, the constituency-based system creates a rich breeding ground for political chicanery, deception, intimidation and violence.
The constituency based electoral system also exacerbates ethnic tension because different candidates are specific and visible in their appearance, ethnic background and beliefs. This situation can easily make them targets of intimidation and violence based on ethnicity or other forms of malfeasance. Such intimidation, bullshit and hypocrisy are commonly perpetrated by party stalwarts, surprisingly under the watchful eye of their political leaders, resulting in injuries and in some cases even death and property damage.
Constituency -based elections place an undue economic burden on the skinny coffers of our government. The delimitation of boundaries across constituencies and the segregation of populations means that a district according to constituencies requires enormous material and human resources. Valuable resources like this could be better spent on various critical public services such as health education and nutrition in a country extremely poor and dependent on help like ours.
The proportional representation of the district bloc system for its part, greatly enhances the challenging nature of the “first past the post” system. Since PR does not make provision for the delineation of districts into jurisdictions, the significant resources that would have been expended on such activity would have been transferred to other needy sectors of the economy, and would assist in the critical integration of the strategy of reducing poverty of the country.
Furthermore, because the PR system does not make provision for demarcated and discernible constituencies and ascertained voting populations, the risk of faceoff confrontations between a particular candidate and his or her supporters with his or her opponent is greatly reduced. It involves each party drawing up a list of its candidates in order of preference in a district and the seats are distributed on the basis of the proportion of votes won by each party in that district.
The PR system further helps to reduce ethnic tension because candidates are not assured, as a result, the chances of them being targeted for bullying as a result of their beliefs and ethnicity are greatly reduced. Perhaps one of the best benefits of the PR system is that it helps eliminate the idea of a bye-election in case a sitting parliamentarian dies or becomes incapacitated.
Eliminating bye-the election will not only eliminate incidents of violence, it will also save the country valuable resources that would have been spent on such an expensive business. PR also helps bring to the body of the country skilled, educated and deserving Sierra Leonean politicians, who may not have the courage to handle the inconvenience, harassment, intimidation and violence that has come to mark our elections in the past. Such endowed Sierra Leoneans will bring fresh air to the stale, adversarial, constituency-based politics of post-independence Sierra Leone.
The jurisdiction-based system is elitist because it requires large amounts of money to go through this tedious process, the poor but deserving Sierra Leoneans, will not have the opportunity to bring their critical skills to achieve the goals. aspiration to the development of our country and our nation can be difficult only for the loss of valuable human capital.
For our women across the country, the proportional representation of the district block system will guarantee them a 30% quota in Parliament. This will help consolidate not only the empowerment of the opposite sex, but further strengthen the inclusivity we all hope for in our national politics. Women are making better economists and managers and so by consolidating their inclusion under the PR system, the extraordinary and essential skills they will bring to our politics and lawmaking can only help rapidly tracking our national unity and progress more than the existing ‘first past year. post ‘system, which has consistently failed to fulfill these aspirations in that regard.
For our elders, we only need to reflect on the quality of our parliament from 1996 to 2007 and the quiet political environment in those two electoral cycles in order to fully understand and appreciate the virtues and immediate need for us to return to a electoral system (proportional representation) that will save our lives and money, protect our assets and guarantee an effective legislature with gender equality and quality representation throughout the aisle.
In light of the foregoing, I have a firm belief that the PR system beyond the constituency system is better equipped to reduce election violence and intimidation, promote national unity, improve quality of representation, accelerate gender empowerment and inclusivity as a result of reality. that it is inherently inclusive meaning, it does not expose candidates to discrimination based on ethnicity and/or religion. (Photo: Sulaiman Banja Tejan-Sie).
The PR system enhances quality representation because it helps increase women’s participation in national politics and creates opportunity for better Sierra Leonean professionals who may not be able to afford the time and energy to participate in divisive and adversarial partisan politics. The PR system is economically viable because it saves money on borderline and fratricidal and usually violent bye elections.
For a poor and relatively unstable country after the war, I believe Sierra Leone cannot afford western -style elections, heavy on economy and ethnic violence.