• October 25, 2022

Conditions for PR System Are Unconstitutional – Opposition Leader

Conditions for PR System Are Unconstitutional – Opposition Leader
Share on

The Leader of the Opposition in the House of Parliament, Chernor Ramadan Maju Bah, who is also the Leader of the main opposition All People’s Congress (APC) in the House, has Monday 24th October 2022 described conditions for the imposed Proportional Representation system as unconstitutional.

He said the imposition of the PR electoral system by President Julius Maada Bio through the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone is a serious constitutional breach.

Hon Bah in a press statement issued on Monday 24th October 2022 recalled that initial failed attempts by government through the already ‘discredited’ ECSL to table the PR system in the Public Elections Act 2022 Bill, was received with aggressive criticisms and was rejected by Members of Parliament, which led to its eventual withdrawal.

He observed that the imposition of the proposed PR system has generated considerable controversy amongst members of the public, the Civil Society Organizations and the media, adding that the system has the potentials of limiting the participation of citizens in the country’s democratic process.

“It is therefore disappointing that after its rejection by Parliament, the executive would still give directives for this system to be imposed on the people of Sierra Leone. It is even more disturbing that such a change of the electoral system is being attempted on the eve of the multi-tier elections. Using the PR system in place of the constituency system would amount to taking away the rights of the people to choose their representatives directly and hand that power over to political parties”, the statement notes.

The opposition lawmaker said that it is disappointing that after the PR aspect of the bill was rejected by Parliament, the executive imposed the PR system on the people of Sierra Leone.

“It is even more disturbing that such a change of the electoral system is being attempted on the eve of the multi-tier elections. Using the PR system in place of the constituency system would amount to taking away the rights of the people to choose their representatives directly and hand that power over to political parties”, he said and adds; “While I acknowledge that the Constitution of Sierra Leone (Amendment) Act, 2001 Section 38A of the 1991 Constitution, grants ‘THE PRESIDENT discretionary powers to consult with the Electoral Commission and direct them, to conduct elections on the basis of the ‘EXISTING DISTRICTS’ in a manner to be known as the district block representation system instead of constituencies, the same amendment [Section 38A. (1)] specifies the condition precedent to the exercise of such discretion and directive: S. 38A (1): – “Where under any law for the time being in force, a date for a general election of Members of Parliament has been appointed but constituencies have not been established in accordance with subsection (3) of section 38 for the purposes of such election, …….”

The opposition furthered that inarguably, the condition precedent to the exercise of such Presidential discretion is non-existent. As it is, constituencies already exist and by Section 38 subsection (4) of the 1991 Constitution, the Electoral Commission SHALL only review such constituencies at intervals of NOT LESS THAN FIVE YEARS and NOT MORE THAN SEVEN YEARS. It is still less than five years since the present constituencies were established, taking into consideration Section 38 subsection (5) of the said Constitution:

  1. 38 (5)

“Where the boundaries of any constituency are altered in accordance with the provisions of this section, that alteration shall come into effect upon the next dissolution of Parliament, after the alteration has been approved by Parliament.”

He said it is shocking that the ECSL has, without consideration of our laws and based on the dictates of the Executive, decided to switch to a PR system. Hon Bah said that what is even more shocking is that the ECSL has gone further to state that it will also conduct the local council elections on a District Block/Proportional Representation System. These pronouncements by ECSL and its pandering to the whims and caprices of the Executive have the tendency to undermine the independence and credibility of the ECSL.

“In view of the above reasons, and for the protection of the supremacy of our Constitution, I call on His Excellency the President, to reverse his directive to the ECSL. The primary right of the people of Sierra Leone to elect their Parliamentary representatives is through constituency- based elections, as enshrined in the Constitution. I already know that the amendment of the Constitution then, which allows for such exercise of discretion by the President, was necessitated by the prevalence of a civil war in Sierra Leone, and the impossibility of establishing constituencies across the Country”, he urged.

Hon Bah informed that the circumstances have since changed, the country is no longer at war, nor is any part of the country inaccessible. It is also important to note that after the end of the civil war, the then President immediately reverted to the Constituency Based Elections system in 2007, as it promotes participation and democratic good governance.

Tied to the above, constituencies already exist across the country, and we have held three successive successful general elections using the constitutionally prescribed Constituency system. It would therefore be illogical, unprecedented and unconstitutional to revert to a PR system whose introduction was necessitated by the conditions of a raging war in the country.

“I would like to assure the public that should we sense a desire to not reverse this decision, we will use all legal remedies to ensure that the rights of the people of Sierra Leone are not denied them, and that provisions of the Constitution are upheld,” he charged.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *