Democracy resumes in Parliament: APC votes for Speaker for the first time in 10 years

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Newly elected speaker of Parliament, Hon. Segepoh Solomon Thomas

By Alfred Koroma

MPs of main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) have yesterday, May 2nd participated in the election of Speaker of the Sixth Parliament.

At the end of the day-long process, Hon. Segepoh Solomon Thomas, candidate for the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) was elected Speaker by a simple majority having fall short of the two-thirds majority.

He secured 128 of the total votes, defeating his only challenger, Hon. Daniel Koroma of the opposition All Peoples Congress (APC).

Hon. Daniel Koroma hailed the process, saying the sixth Parliament has given utmost importance to democracy.

Delivering a speech after his election, the new Speaker thanked the MPs for voting him and pledge excellent service. He said the election has opened his eyes to so many perspectives.

After three rounds of the voting in which the ruling Party failed to secure two-thirds majority, the candidate for the main opposition, Hon. Koroma announced he’s stepped down from the race to end the long process, but the ruling SLPP  insisted they must keep voting to elect the new Speaker.

It’s the first time APC MPs have participated in the election of the Speaker since their Party went out of governance in 2018. The last time the Party elected Speaker of Parliament was in 2014, electing SBB Dumbuya while they were in governance.

The Party boycotted the two previous elections of Speaker of the Fifth Parliament, Dr. Abass Bundu, and his re-election last year to begin the Sixth Parliament.

Both elections were marred with electoral controversies that forced the APC  to boycott.

But on Thursday, the Party contested the election to replace Dr. Bundu who resigned last month due to ill health. His two elections and reign as Speaker have been the most controversial, both of which, the main opposition MPs refuse to participate.

In total, 149 MPs were elected to the current Parliament, representing Sierra Leone’s two main political parties. This includes 81 SLPP MPs and 54 from the APC.

But 145 MPs were present for Thursday election. Two MPs, one from each of the parties were absent, while two (Paramount Cheif Members of Parliament) are deceased.

So from the side of the SLPP 80 MPs voted and 53 as well from the APC.

In the first round of the vote to elect Hon. Segepoh, the ruling SLPP secured 93 votes while APC got 52 votes, which indicates that one of the APC MPs voted for the ruling Party.

As the voting proceeded to the second rounds, APC votes dwindled to 49, with the ruling Party candidate securing 96 votes in the second rounds votes counted.

In the third rounds, SLPP got 95 while the APC secured 50. The final rounds of the vote, during which the APC candidate had withdrawn his candidature, SLPP won with 128 while the APC got 10 votes. There was 1 void vote 6 absentees.

After the Speaker race, Hon. Tawa Conteh was elected with 94 votes as Deputy Speaker of Parliament. He contested against Hon. Miatta Amara of the APC.

Two issues: one on whether the former Speaker was right to have directed his resignation letter to the President, and the other on whether the two MPs absent from both sides of the House were to be counted in the voting, were lengthily argued by the Majority and Minority Leaders, delaying the commencement of the election.

The Minority Leader and Leader of the Opposition, Hon Abdul Kargbo said the former Speaker was supposed to have addressed his resignation letter to Parliament and not the President. But the Majority Leader and Leader of Government Business, Matthew Sahr Nyuma objected, arguing that the President is part of Parliament. He cited Abel Strong who also addressed his resignation letter to the former President, Ernest Bai Koroma, under the APC regime.

Eventually, both Leaders agreed that in the feature, the Speaker’s resignation letter should be addressed to Parliament rather than the President.

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