By Alhaji Haruna Sani
Leader of the main opposition All Peoples’ Congress (APC) in parliament, Hon. Chernor Maju Bah has stated in a press release dated 24 October, 2022, that the conditions for Proportional Representative system do not exist as per the Sierra Leone Constitution.
Hon. Bah said an attempt by the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone (ECSL) to conduct next year’s multi-tier elections using the District Block and Proportional Representation (PR) system would be a serious constitutional breach that will significantly reverse the gains made in strengthening democracy in post-war Sierra Leone.
“Before proceeding any further, I must make it very clear that if this decision by the President to use the P.R system in 2023 Parliamentary elections is not reversed in two weeks, I will not hesitate to call the people of Sierra Leone out to protest across the length and breadth of the country to demand that the decision is reversed,” he writes.
The Opposition Leader in Parliament went on to state in his release that the idea of using the PR system was initially introduced in Parliament in the Public Elections Bill 2022, it was heavily criticised and rejected by Members of Parliament, leading to its eventual withdrawal.
Hon. Bah noted that given its potential to limit the participation of citizens in the country’s democratic process, the proposed PR system generated considerable controversy amongst members of the public, the civil society and the media.
He said it was therefore disappointing that after its rejection by Parliament, the executive would still give directives for the system to be imposed on the people of Sierra Leone.
The boss of the main opposition in parliament said it was even more disturbing that such a change of the electoral system was being attempted on the eve of the multi-tier elections.
He added that using the PR system in place of the constituency system would amount to taking away the rights of the people to choose their representatives directly and hand that power over to political parties.
He quoted section 38A (1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone (Amendment) Act OF 2001.
“Where under any law for the time being in force, a date for a general election of Members of Parliament has been appointed but constituencies have not been established in accordance with subsection (3) of section 38 for the purposes of such election,” he said.
“Inarguably, the condition precedent to the exercise of such Presidential discretion is non-existent. As it is, constituencies already exist and by Section 38 subsection (4) of the 1991 Constitution, the Electoral Commission SHALL only review such constituencies at intervals of NOT LESS THAN FIVE YEARS and NOT MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS. It is still less than five years since the present constituencies were established.”
Hon. Bah drew highlighted several quotations from the constitution that counter the ECSL decision, therefore that it is shocking that the ECSL has, without consideration of the laws and based on the dictates of the Executive, decided to switch to a PR system.
“Even more shocking, the ECSL has gone further to state that it will also conduct the local council elections on a District Block/Proportional Representation System. These pronouncements by our Electoral Commission and its pandering to the whims and caprices of the Executive have the tendency to undermine the independence and credibility of the ECSL.”
He called on the President to reverse his directive to the ECSL, adding that it would therefore be illogical, unprecedented and unconstitutional to revert to a PR system whose introduction was necessitated by the conditions of a raging war in the country.