May 4, 2017 By Mohamed Massaquoi
A public perception survey on a nationwide knowledge, attitudes and practice conducted by the Institute for Governance Reform (IGR) under the Standing Together for Democracy Consortium states that over 68% of citizens have confidence in the National Electoral Commission (NEC) to conduct and count the votes of the 2018 elections fairly without favouring any political party.
The report further noted that 444 voters have the potential of changing their minds if the commission changes their patterns before the 2018 elections.
The Executive Direct of IGR, Andrew Lavali, said at least 86 percent of respondents in stronghold districts stated that they support a particular political party compared to 84.9 percent in competitive and 67 percent in swing districts, but that 73 percent of voters, who registered in 2012 stated that they would vote for their party’s presidential candidate in the 2018 election.
“Sierra Leone is high on democratic credentials and one of the key findings from this study on election is that the country’s credential is steadily growing. 80% of respondents believe that elections can make a difference in the way Sierra Leone is govern. This shows that periodic election is becoming institutionalized and citizens have embraced a culture of peaceful change of government through the ballot. Also, about 40.2 % of respondents in the study mentioned that traits such as individual traits like experience, commitment and honesty are important reasons that shape voter choice for presidential and MP candidates,” he said.
Lavali further noted that vote buying by politicians was one of biggest issues in Sierra Leonean politics and it has been one of the hotly debated topics and that the study proved that many politicians were giving money for votes.
“Vote buying is pervasive in some parts of the country than others. Roughly 24 percent of respondents claimed that they have seen or heard a political candidate engage in giving money or gifts in specific localities for votes. 29 percent of respondents in swing areas state that they have heard or seen candidates engaging in this activity, compared to 25 percent in stronghold areas and 13.9 percent in competitive districts. However, only 4.7 percent of respondents state that they have personally received money or gifts in exchange for electoral support. This clearly shows that the influence of money is not on the wane in Sierra Leone politics,” he said, adding that another area the research looked into has to do with violence in election.
“The section on violence and election looks briefly at Sierra Leones history of violence around elections and asks what are the flashpoint and potentials for violence in the upcoming 2018 election. Only 14 percent of respondents believed that political competition led to community violence in 2012.However high percentage were reported in Bo, Kenema, Kono and Tonkolili districts,” he concluded.