‘We have a long way to democratic consolidation’

Says IGR Executive director

October 18, 2017 By Ibrahim Tarawallie 

Executive Director of Institute of Governance Reform (IGR), Andrew Lavalie, has stated that the country has a long way to democratic consolidation because of the way and manner in which political parties are conducting their internal democracies.

Sierra Leone has come a long way to improving on its democratic credentials since the nation returned to multi-party democracy in 1996. It’s more than three decades since the country returned to multi-party democracy following a one party dictatorship and military rule.

The country has conducted four democratic elections, with the fifth election slated for March 7, 2018. Even though several parties have emerged over the three decades, we still have two dominant parties – the ruling All Peoples Congress and the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party – who have between them ruled the country since independence to date, barring military rule. The country still grapples with challenges in ensuring that intra-party politics are democratic and transparent.

In a telephone interview with Concord Times yesterday, Mr. Lavalie stated that the country’s democracy is relatively still young, adding that internal democracies in political parties are important for the country as according to him, whatever is happening within those parties could be transmitted to state management.

“Our current democracy is what we have, but it is the voice of the people. Our democratic institutions are not yet strong. We have a long way to go to ensure that political parties are strong to embrace democracy. Our political parties are not driven by policies,” he remarked.

According to him, because the ruling party will be using the president to lead their election campaign, lots of pressure would be on state institutions like the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC), National Electoral Commission (NEC), the Police and judiciary.

He asserted that these institutions are not too strong and that there are more questions for their actors to answer as the country enters a crucial phase of electioneering process, adding that they have a real battle as to whether to listen to the president or the wishes of citizens.

“The stakes are really high for these elections and we should pay attention to it as democracy leaders. It is challenging for us all. But what is worrying is when you have people running public offices and taking part in political activities and holding positions in political parties, when the constitution is against it,” he queried.

Mr. Lavalie opined that the participation of public officials in active politics has implications as to how state institutions are managed those actors and their use of public resources to finance political party activities.

With regards his view on the mode of choosing their standard bearers, IGR Executive Director congratulated both the APC and SLPP for having successfully completed the process of selecting Dr. Samura Kamara in Makeni and electing Retired Brigadier Julius Maada Bio in Freetown, respectively.

He maintained that the two main political parties have different constitutions, as the APC’s stipulates either election or selection while the SLPP’s insists on election by national delegates.

“The SLPP has a more progressive constitution as it is in line with our multi-party constitution. The APC put power in the hands of one person to choose their leader. The APC constitution is not much in line with democratic practices,” he noted.