Kailahun, APC retains Lunsar seat
July 11, 2016 By Abu-bakarr Sheriff
The parliamentary bye-elections on Saturday, 9 July,came and went without any major incident as many had feared. The pre-elections campaign was marred by violent clashes in both constituencies 001 and 050. Voter apathy was high in both constituencies, as predicted, blamed largely on pre-elections violence and disillusioned voters, unhappy that politicians have only bettered their lot while the masses live in penury.
In Constituency 001 in Kailahun, the military was deployed just ahead of the poll, while heavy police presence changed the mood from jubilant to apprehensive as supporters of the main opposition Sierra Leone Peoples Party(SLPP) clashed with members of the ruling All Peoples Congress(APC). The police were again accused of being trigger and teargas happy as they unleashed salvos of live bullets and noxious canister to disperse rival party supporters; two youth were reportedly injured by gun shots.
Kailahun is regarded as an opposition stronghold, a claim the ruling party stoutly contest. Maya Kaikai, Minister of Local Government, said ahead of the election that the volatile township is “nobody’s stronghold”.
As expected, the APC mobilised men and resources to strike right at the heart of an opposition that is fragmented to the core. Vice President Victor Bockarie Foh visited Kailahun before the polls, ostensibly canvassing for votes, while Kaikai, Robin Fallay – a former SLPP lawmaker who defected in 2012 – mounted an animated campaign to wrestle the seat from the opposition, no doubt to prove the point that Kailahun no longer belongs to the opposition.
However, despite their disunity, the SLPP themselves mounted a spirited campaign to again defeat the APC in the constituency.
This was the second bye-election in the constituency since 2012; in 2013, the late Hon. Patrick Foyah won 70 percent of valid ballots, while APC’s Susan Bona got 30 percent.
The SLPP repeated the feat last Saturday, albeit with a slightly lower percentage, when their candidate, Ms. Maya Kaikai, won a reported 69.3 percent of valid votes cast, while APC’s Haja Nasratu Jalloh got 30.4 percent.
Although APC operatives claim to have made ‘considerable inroads’ in the constituency, they will be disappointed that despite campaigning on a platform of development, voters in constituency 001 still remain loyal to the SLPP, which is often maligned to have done nothing for the agriculture rich district.
Ms. Kaikai had vowed to defeat her opponent, a ‘stranger’, she insisted, hands down! Her epithet of a ‘stranger’ was confirmed after report suggests that the APC candidate could not vote for herself because she is not a registered voter in the constituency.
In constituency 050 in Port Loko district, the APC retained the seat vacated by Hon. Isata Kabia, who is now Minister of State II in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation.
The APC candidate, Osman Karankay Conteh, won by 68.8 percent, beating Alliance Democratic Party leader and chairman, Mohamed Kamarainba Mansaray, who got 29.2 percent.
Mr. Mansaray failed to repeat the heroic he had done in constituency 030 in Bombali, also in the heartland of the ruling party, when he came a close second, last year. However, his campaign may have been hamstrung by reported violence and intimidation that he and his supporters were subjected to.
As for the winner, Conteh, it was second time lucky as he was the loser in the 2012 election, while representing the SLPP. He subsequently defected and got what he wanted – a chance to be a lawmaker. He had boasted of winning by a large margin, and the provisional figures vindicate his claim.
The SLPP continues to perform badly in the north. As in previous bye-elections, the main opposition party could only garner two percent of the votes, way below void votes, estimated at 3.7 percent.
As the country gears up for presidential, general and local elections in 2018, the status quo remains, with the APC consolidating its position in the north, though threatened by the ADP, while the SLPP fends off threats from a ruling party, ever determined to make further gains in the opposition stronghold.