Elections are About the People, not the Politicians

It is only right that the Supreme Court should make a definitive ruling on the president’s ruling that we should change the system used to elect Sierra Leone’s parliamentarians.

We must remember – and never stop restating – that we are a country that lives by the rule of law. Such decisions on fundamental constitutional principles should be decided peacefully and legally. The scenes we saw last month in our parliament, when tempers flared and physical fights broke out over President Bio’s executive order to introduce proportional representation for future elections, shamed the whole country. 

Sierra Leonean elected representatives were seen – by the whole world – behaving in a manner unworthy of their status. 

Members of the Sierra Leonean parliament, dressed in black suits, fight on the floor of the parliament. A man on the right of the picture holds the parliamentary mace above his head.

A change in Sierra Leone’s electoral system should be decided by parliament itself, through primary legislation. If there is a strong, unarguable case for reform, let it be made in a public debate, allowing contrary opinions to be heard. 

I understand why some people feel strongly about the subject, but we need to calm down and get all this in perspective.

First of all, as Sierra Leone and its people continue to suffer economically, as ordinary families struggle to afford basic commodities, this unruly behaviour by those we elected looks divorced from reality. Democracy is, of course, vitally important and precious, but there are many things to get angry about at the moment and ordinary people will simply not understand why our representatives are throwing furniture at each other over this particular reform.

Second, we must expect a better standard of behaviour from those running our country, whatever the subject they’re discussing and legislating on. We are a democracy: issues are decided by votes, not tempers or insults. 

Lastly, can I appeal to our parliament to remember that the world is watching. If Sierra Leone is to take its rightful place at the top table of the world community, if we are to be respected and listened to by our international allies, we need to understand what the impact of the disgraceful scenes we witnessed last month have on our international reputation. We are all judged according to the behaviour of our leaders.