Author: Dukullay Bockarie,
A final year/ graduating student at the Political Science Department, Fourah Bay College – University of Sierra Leone.
Contact : + 232 78372283
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
The current political atmosphere of the Sierra Leonean governance and political systems is fashioned by continuous misconceptions, especially about the precept of Proportional Representation or the District Block system as at against the First Past the Post system. Parts of the parliament of Sierra Leone have argued and kicked against it practice. Whereas, others in the well overwhelmingly embraced it.
Members of the public (the ordinary citizens), who hugely rely on their representatives for adequate education on the said proportional representation are totally discombobulated/ confused about it.
Different delegations from countries in the parliament of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) have viewed Proportional Representation in different perspectives and have equall negatively contemplated on the contemporary issues that hover around the politics and governance of Sierra Leone. To some, they said that, “Proportional Representation is important, but not necessary to be implemented in Sierra Leone_ owing to the fact that, there are already established political constituencies in place.”
As Bishop English Peterson asserted in his definition on Proportional Representation, “Is a term used to describe a range of electoral systems in which the distribution of seats corresponds closely with the proportion of the total votes cast for each party or individual candidate. PR offers alternatives to first past the post and other majoritarian voting systems based on single-member electoral areas, which tend to produce disproportionate outcomes and to have a bias in favor of larger groups”.
Based on the above, it’s, however, significant to expressly say that, there are two forms of Proportional Representation. Which include:
The single transferable votes: This system has some resemblance with the alternative voting system. It allocates quota to candidates contesting elections. Each voter is expected to number the candidates in order for his preference when the votes are counted. Any candidate that exceeds his required quota, the remaining votes will not be wasted but transferred to another candidate following it. It will continue this way until the number of candidates allocated to the constituency have been elected.
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Multi-member list system: This is a system in which voter’s vote for parties rather than candidates. In this case, political parties prepare lists in the order which they want their candidates to be elected and these names are printed in that order on the ballot pappers. With each having its own ballot paper, a voter, therefore, selects the ballot paper of a party he wishes to vote for and vote for that party.
Consequent upon the following, it’s equally apt to say that, it’s left with the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone to choose one of the above for the 2023 general elections.
However, the fundamental argument for proportional representation is that, to the extent possible, each voter should have a voice in their representative bodies: national and state legislatures, local boards and councils.
To further appreciate the topic of Bishop English Peterson and equally to advance argument (s) on the precept of Proportional Representation, serving as a prerequisite for the electoral system in the 2023 general elections of Sierra Leone, here are some of the advantages and the disadvantages of it.
On one note, more voters are represented.
In single-winner districts, “competitiveness” is generally considered to be a virtue—we prefer districts where elections are not foregone conclusions. But we also observe that the more competitive a single-seat district, the more voters (as many as half, and maybe more) are on the losing side, unable to elect their own representative. With proportional representation, on the other hand, a group of voters need not make up a majority in order to elect a representative. Depending on the number of seats, the threshold for representation can easily be 10–20% of the voters, or less.
Moreover, PR encourages candidate quality and diversity.
When single-seat districts are uncompetitive, the minority party (or other voting group) finds it difficult to recruit high-quality candidates capable of running a competitive campaign, because the outcome of the election is a foregone conclusion. Consequently, campaigns become perfunctory or even non-existent. With PR, on the other hand, a diverse range of candidates is motivated to campaign vigorously, precisely because the election is never a complete “lock” for one group or the other.
More so, representation of diverse views within parties
Voters within our major parties have a fairly wide range of views on many issues. A PR system has the ability to represent that range of view within a party or other voting groups, as well as positions across groups or parties.
Also, it ensures the representation of minority groups and parties.
In many states, elected representatives are responsible for drawing their own district boundaries. This leads to abuses, most notably gerrymandering to create “safe” districts for a party or a particular representative. These abuses should of course be corrected. However, when states have reformed their redistricting procedure by putting it in the hands of neutral parties, we find that under the reformed system, incumbents are just as likely to be re-elected, and nearly as many seats are “safe” (non-competitive) as under the old gerrymandered districting.
First thing firsts, It is complicated: One of the major draw backs of this system is that it is too confusing. Proportional representation is a complicated form of election. Sometimes, it is difficult to understand the structure of this kind of system, becauseall the groups in the society are led by different people or political parties.
Secondarily, It is expensive in nature: As you may know, systems that encourages wide elections are usually expensive and proportional representation is not an exception in this instance. The system is also very expensive to operate as all the resources of the state can be spent on conducting elections.
Finally, Multiplication of political parties: Proportional representation encourages multiplication of political parties which results in election violence. In countries where it is practiced, there is usually violence and crisis during election.
So far, we have looked at the meaning, advantages and disadvantages of proportional representation. However, in my candid opinion as a student of Political Science, whose mindset is far beyond tribal, regional and party politics, I would prefer the use or the application of the Proportional Representation to the First Past the Post system in any political life of a democratic society in the world.
And again, though necessary, but is it timely for Sierra Leone to apply the Proportional Representation in 2023 general elections? A question that more than five thousand (5000) of the population of Sierra asks.
Looking at one point of what I’ve learnt especially from those that are kicking against it, that, there are already established constituencies in the country and therefore, not timely for the government to use the Proportional Representation.
Also, that, the existing government wants to use the Proportional Representation to let the presidential, parliamentary and other seats to wet in their favour.
In another perspective, especially from the government side, that, they are applying the PR system in the 2023 elections, because the newly concluded census results or satistics that ensure the adequate establishment of constituencies in the country have not yet well been determined.
Also, that the current constituencies in the country are not liberally determined or accordingly distributed.
Finally, that, they are using it as it helps to consolidate or improve the democracy of Sierra Leone most appropriately.
Since Sierra Leone is marred by those unwavering disagreements, miscalculations and misconceptions of the electoral and political systems, I recommend the application of the Proportional Representation suquel the below factors:
It’s just absolutely the best for Sierra Leone’s political system at this point-in-time.
It has been applied in more liberal, wide and complex societies/ countries/ states in the world. Examples are the United Kingdom and the United States of America severally.
Nonetheless, it helps bridge the wide gaps that are vehemently established in the political systems of Sierra Leone.