INSIGHT: Sierra Leone decides 2023: Incumbents and two terms

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By Ishmael Dumbuya

Whenever elections approach in Sierra Leone, there are issues of the incumbent government having grip on the power, and sometimes there is this stereotype that every ruling government is supposed to rule for two terms. This concept has existed for over decades, spanning from the rule of President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, Ernest Bai Koroma, and Maada Bio won’t be an exception to that paradigm.

There are a lot of political gimmicks that incumbent governments’ always institute to seek re-election whenever their first mandate comes to an end. Some of this factors that are used on the electorates in order for them to be re-elected, sometimes appeals to the minds of voters across the country. These gimmicks are mostly ignored by political pundits and civil servants but they play a key role in enhancing their re-election.

Now let’s take an in-depth look at some of these unknown factors that are employed by ruling government whenever elections approach. 

Political Apathy

Political apathy simply refers to a situation wherein the electorates do not feel any need to participate in the electioneering process. However, this is triggered mostly by the behaviour of politicians who mostly underperformed towards the development of the country, leaving citizens with no option but to be completely be  uninterested in the electioneering processes of the country. For instance, the economic difficulty started during the reign of President Koroma, to an extent that his government was hit with austerity, even though the economic challenges were at a minimal level. So,Sierra Leoneans were upset and primed by the system to an extent that they demanded for a change of government. As a result, the APC government was voted out, ushering the SLPP government under President Bio. With President Bio in power, the system becomes direr that the people of Sierra Leone became disappointed in the SLPP government. Now president Bio is seeking a new mandate. Citizens have thoroughly lost hope in politicians to an extent that they have developed a feeling of not wanting to participate in the country’ electoral process, thus, voter apathy, and this will serve as an advantage to the ruling government.

Vote Buying

The incumbent government always has enough money in their possession to an extent that they can use it and buy people over and re-elect them into office. There are instances wherein ruling governments have employed this means to buy people over. And this is the most common means of getting people to vote for them. As it clear that the country is fraught with poverty, politicians can easily use this deceptive means and buy people over       

Vote buying in many countries, i.e. gifts of goods or money before the elections, aimed at persuading recipients to vote in a particular way or to vote at all is pervasive and pre-electoral transfers to voters are substantial.

In a survey conducted by Afrobarometer across 17 countries, 19 percent of more than 20,000 respondents reported that they had been offered a gift in the last election.

Regional and tribal factors

Historical factors largely also plays a role in the ruling government being re-elected. There is this notion that Southerners are pro-SLPP, whereas, Northerners are pro-APC. With this in mind, the SLPP, being a Mende dominated and having majority of government officials from the South, such as Bo and Kenema, in whatever, and however way the SLPP government administers this country, they will 100 percent still throw their support for them, only to boast that they are in governance. Likewise the APC parties, being that majority of their appointed government officials were from the North, and Temne dominated, all that the APC did was approved and supported by their supporters. This factor is so ingrained in the minds of Sierra Leonean to an extent people have become blind to development and a hard-working government.

The role of the international Community

Election observation is recognized by the international community as one of the ways to promote the quality of democracy. It is often held that election observation, if conducted impartially and effectively, fends off electoral fraud and violence, leading to peaceful elections. Yet, in some cases, election observation is misused to serve particular interests thereby casting doubt about its credibility. Sometimes international election observers fail to deter fraud and violence in elections mainly due to their mode of operation and political interests. In most cases, the international community gives weak support to the opposition to the detriment of the incumbent.

Vote rigging

Vote rigging has been a phenomenal factor in African elections. There are instances where incumbent governments have been accused of election rigging. In most cases after elections, oppositions have been muttering about rigging and it sometimes resort to legal cases.

Whatever the case may be, the incumbent government in Sierra Leone always has tremendous powers to always influence the outcomes of elections, be it fairly or skewed

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