On March 7th, the voting result of Sierra Leonean General Election, 2018 came out. Turned out, Julius Maada Bio from Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) got 43.3% of the total votes. Samura Kamara, the presidential candidate from All People’s Congress (APC), the current ruling party, came in second, with 42.7% of total votes. There is not a single candidate got more than 55% of the vote in this round of voting, Thus, according to the two-round system Sierra Leonean adopted, there will be a run-off between the top two candidates.
The run-off voting will be held on March 27th, which date seems not far away. But I am affairs the level of tension that exists after the first round of voting and the level of both physical and political violence involves during the entire election will really exhaust the democracy in Sierra Leonean within this few days.
Sierra Leonean General Election, 2018 is the eleventh general election in Sierra Leone since the first general election under universal suffrage happened in 1962. It is also the third election since the Sierra Leonean Civil War ended at 2002. Even though Sierra Leonean came in late in terms of free election, it appears to be in a good stage of democracy. In current election, there were two female presidential candidates also running for the position. Several programs were putted out to help the registered voters with disability to ensure the representation of the disable community. Though it didn’t really happen , the Sierra Leonean government initially even attempted to use Blockchian in this election to ensure the transparency. The civil society participation index of Sierra Leona as usual, remains in a pretty high level in the current election, just like it did in the past decad. However, the violent civil participations happen in this election hurt the democracy in Sierra Leone.
Funny enough, when there is abuse of civil participation, this strong resistance of democratic erosion can immediately turn into promotion of such backsliding. And there are the Sierra Leonean civilians after the first round of voting, using physical violence to express their political stands.
Both SLPP and ACP have experienced the malice from the civilians who opposite them . Some candidates, from ACP had their cars and houses set on fire. Ibrahim Tawa Conteh, the elected SLPP parliament member in west Freetown has to cover himself in police uniform in order to escape from the physical attacks. Under such tensions, it is hard for politician to really express their political belief, by which they may put their safety under threats. The violent civil participations happening on in Sierra Leone enable civilians to “speak” their opinion out loud by their actions, but mute the politicians. Where is the place for democracy if the people elected don’t even have the right to speak?
In fact, tensions and violence between the supporters of each party were triggered by the political violence that both parties used after the first round of voting, and it is polarizing the state at the moment.
Though denying he once said that, the presidential spokesman Abdulai Baratay from APC directly accused SLPP and its supporters of voting along tribal lines . By then, both parties began to depict their counter parties as “regionalism” and attack their counter parties for just caring about the benefit of their region instead of the entire country. Since the regional diversions were overemphasized by both parties, the tension among the civilian began to develop and force them to pick a side. So now in Sierra Leone, a person has to either be red with APC in north, or green with SLPP in south. There is no middle ground for people to stand on. The tension caused by this political violence of “regionalism” labeling that conducted by both parties to attack their opponents polarized the country and triggered violence. With more violence from both sides , the north and the south will be polarized further and this is really nothing but a vicious circle that eventually hurts democracy.
The inappropriate use of state monopoly violence —- police, in this election after the first round of voting also led people to doubt the fair and democratic nature of this election.
Right after the result of the first round of voting came out, Sierra Leonean police began to investigate so-called election related crimes on a national sphere . The police then disrupted National Election Commission (NEC) for it conducted unwarranted investigation in NEC . Even though the police officials had their explanation regarding the unlawful search, the action is still quite disturbing. Because APC is the current ruling power who has the right to use the state’s monopoly violence, namely the police, and APC happens to be in the second place of the first round of voting.
Without a doubt, there were too many acts of violence after the first round of 2018 Sierra Leonean General Election. All the violence is corrupting the democratic system. The run-off round is approaching now, but the question is, can the democracy in Sierra Leone wait till that day? Even if the run-off happens smoothly, the backsliding caused by the physical and political violence may still be enlarged and carry down for the country itself has already polarize and abuse its legitimacy during the election season.