Comparing the 2007 and 2018 Elections

Jimmy Kandeh Compares Sierra Leone 2007 and 2018 Elections

DYNAMICS OF THE 2018 ELECTIONS

Given the sub-regional democratization trends and the strong internal and diaspora demand for political and social change, all the signs point to the APC losing the 2018 presidential election in Sierra Leone.

Author: Professor Jimmy Kandeh

Author: Professor Jimmy Kandeh

Parallels between the 2007 and 2018 elections are instructive and may provide some insights into possible 2018 electoral outcomes.  The APC is facing some gusty electoral headwinds in the 2018 elections that are in many ways reminiscent of what the SLPP had to deal with in 2007. The APC ticket of Kamara/Bah is as lackluster and uninspiring as the SLPP’s Berewa/Koroma ticket of 2007 and some of the same factors that led to the SLPP’s defeat in 2007 could also result in the APC losing power in 2018.

These factors include but are not limited to incumbent party unpopularity and vulnerability, selection of ruling party presidential ticket by the outgoing president.  The fact that the president is not on the ballot, internal dissension in ruling party, the emergence of a formidable and credible third-party alternative that threatens the ruling party in its stronghold, and the false confidence of members and supporters of the ruling party.

While these similarities capture some of the dynamics of the 2018 elections, there are also significant contextual variations and discontinuities that could also shape the outcome of these elections.

CONTEXTUAL VARIATIONS AND DISCONTINUITIES

The palpable unpopularity of the current government is comparable to the SLPP government in its waning days. What distinguished SLPP’s unpopularity in 2007 from the APC’s in 2018 is that the outgoing President in 2018 is viewed more negatively than his predecessor.  For example, in the strident lyrics of some of the songs that resonate with the public. Today’s iteration of Emmerson’s “Borbor Belleh” is “Munku Bors Pan Matches.” However, where Borbor Belleh targeted the political class as a whole, Munku is a direct indictment and outright rejection of the President (caricatured as Adebayor) himself.

The third party in 2007 (PMDC) helped the APC to victory, but the third party in 2018 (NGC) is more likely to unseat the APC in the presidential election.

Both Kabba and Koroma failed to improve the living conditions and life chances of ordinary people. But, Kabba was less unpopular at the end of his tenure than Koroma is today, and this is in large part because the late president left our country in relatively better condition than when he took over as President in 1996.

Our country is in worse shape today than when Koroma became President, and this is perhaps the most damning indictment of the current president’s tenure and legacy.

That the incumbent president, as was the case in 2007, is not on the ballot has implications for the conduct and outcome of the 2018 elections.

A president seeking re-election can be expected to have slightly different options and choices from one attempting to protect his/her interests after leaving office. Although recent elections in Senegal, Nigeria Ghana and Gambia have shown that electorates can vote out incumbents from power in free and fair elections, it is still difficult to unseat an incumbent president seeking re-election.

Relatively less arduous but by no means accessible is dislodging incumbent parties from office in free and fair elections, and maybe the fact that Koroma is not on the ballot could potentially check the inclination and temper the resolve of some state functionaries to skew election results in the president’s favor.

Given the sub-regional democratization trends and the strong internal and diaspora demand for political and social change, all the signs point to the APC losing the 2018 presidential election in Sierra Leone.

The decision by Kabba and Koroma to force their choice of successor down the throats of their parties caused widespread disaffection among members and defections from their political Parties.

Those parting ways with the SLPP in 2007 were mainly elites whereas defections from the APC in 2018 seem to be coming predominantly from the grassroots. Although exodus from the APC has not led to the formation of a new party, many disgruntled APC members and supporters have gravitated to the new National Grand Coalition (NGC) party.

NGC A CREDIBLE ALTERNATIVE TO APC AND SLPP

The emergence of the NGC provides a credible alternative to the discredited APC and SLPP, making the 2018 elections similar in some ways but different in others from the 2007 contests.

The PMDC was an off-shoot of the SLPP, and its participation in the 2007 elections harmed the SLPP and helped the APC. The membership and support base of the PMDC was predominantly southern, and all ten seats won by the party in the 2007 parliamentary elections were in the south. The PMDC’s inability to gain any electoral traction in the north doomed its electoral chances but the party’s leader was able to forge an electoral alliance with the APC that led to the latter’s victory in the 2007 presidential run-off between Koroma and Berewa. Had Kabba not imposed Berewa on the party there would have been no PMDC and absent PMDC participation in the 2007 elections the APC could not have won.

With more APC members and supporters deserting their party for the NGC in the 2018 elections, the APC is not offsetting this erosion of support in its putative northern stronghold with gains elsewhere in the country. Similarly, the SLPP is not expanding its support base outside the south and east, which are likely to be as competitive as the north because of the NGC whose Vice-Presidential candidate hails from the East.

The third party in 2007 (PMDC) helped the APC to victory, but the third party in 2018 (NGC) is more likely to unseat the APC in the presidential election.

Term-limited presidents hell-bent on imposing their choices in the 2007 and 2018 presidential elections ended up hamstringing their parties with candidates who were agonizingly challenging to sell to the public. Samura is as hard a political sell as was Berewa in 2007 and the choice of these two men as flagbearers speak to the lack of internal democracy in the APC under Koroma and in Kabba’s SLPP.

From all indications, Kabba and Koroma’s choice of presidential and vice-presidential candidates for their respective parties had very little if anything to do with their party and country’s interests. But Parties that do not permit internal democracy are not in a position to serve as custodians of our teething electoral democracy, and while outgoing presidents may succeed in having their way with their parties, they are not likely to have the same results at the national level or with the electorate as a whole.

What incumbent presidents can pull off in their parties is not expected to be replicated or validated by presidential election results.

The false confidence and braggadocio of APC incumbents and supporters in 2018 broadly mirror the misplaced sense of entitlement by SLPP incumbents in 2007.

Berewa never missed an opportunity to assure anyone who would listen that he was going to win the presidential election “hands down” in the first round. He and his cohorts dismissed any talk of defeat as unrealistic even after the formation of the PMDC. Like the APC today, crowds were rented, and people were paid to show up at Berewa’s campaign events.

The APC may not be as assured in 2018 compared to 2012, but it still waxes confident about the results of the forthcoming elections. What the APC cannot overcome, take back or run away from is its track record in office.

Siaka Stevens, Joseph Momoh, and Ernest Koroma did more to turn the clock back on social and institutional progress in our country than Milton Margai, Albert Margai, and Ahmad Tejan Kabba.

OVERTIME COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS TO APC AND SLPP RULE

The failures of APC leadership is less to suggest that our country has done better under SLPP rule than to underscore the relative governance failure of the APC.

Just as the 2007 elections were referenda on the SLPP, the 2018 polls will also be about the APC’s record in office. The SLPP did more to lose the 2007 elections than the APC could ever have done to win them, with the electorate voting more against the SLPP and less for the APC.

The SLPP lost in 2007 because of its record and the participation of the PMDC.  The APC is also likely to suffer defeat in 2018 on account of its report and, the emergence of NGC.

The APC flagbearer in 2018 is as low energy and lacking in dynamism and vision as was the SLPP flagbearer in 2007. Even more so, is the fact that the sleeping hours of both Samura (often seen sleeping while Koroma is speaking on his behalf) and Berewa seem to exceed their waking moments.

Like the SLPP in 2007, the APC cannot run away from its record especially when its presidential candidate, like Berewa in 2007, is a critical player in the current government.

THE EMERGENCE OF NGC AS A NATIONAL PLAYER

In addition to the similarities mentioned above, there are significant discontinuities between the 2007 and 2018 elections that are worth nothing. The NGC is a national party whereas the PMDC was a regional (southern) party.

Yumkella will be a more formidable presidential candidate than Margai was in 2007.   Where Margai and the PMDC never threatened the APC in the north, Yumkella and the NGC will put the North in play for the first time since the 2002 elections when Kabba trounced Koroma in Kambia and Koinadugu and won 31% of the northern vote.

The PMDC mainly took votes away from the SLPP, but the NGC is attracting support from hordes of disaffected SLPP and APC members and supporters alike.

The awkward and heavy-handed resolution of the APC flagbearer issue and the disqualification of dual citizens as candidates in the forthcoming elections have created considerable disaffection within the APC and provided opportunities for the NGC to scoop up disgruntled APC members and supporters in large numbers.

With more APC members and supporters deserting their party for the NGC in the 2018 elections, the APC is not offsetting this erosion of support in its putative northern stronghold with gains elsewhere in the country. Similarly, the SLPP is not expanding its support base outside the south and east, which are likely to be as competitive as the north because of the NGC whose Vice-Presidential candidate hails from the East.

Neither the APC nor SLPP can win when their strongholds are competitive, if not up for grabs.

The NGC flagbearer is also a more formidable presidential candidate than Charles Margai, the combustible leader of the PMDC. NGC appeal and that of its presidential candidate transcends ethnic group, region, religion, gender, and sexuality.  One cannot say the same thing about the PMDC and its leader in 2007 or the APC and SLPP presidential candidates in 2007, 2012 and 2018.

Yumkella has been able to capture the imagination of the youth, and this was something Margai never did or could do. The NGC has attracted some of the top brains in and outside the country with highly credentialed and accomplished personalities leading the way.

In contrast to an APC government that rewards mediocrity, incompetence and malfeasance, the NGC and its leaders represent a breath of fresh air in an otherwise unhealthy and decadent political environment.

President Kabba left behind a democratic legacy when he graciously handed over power to Koroma and the opposition APC in 2007. In contrast to Koroma and the APC’s current efforts to keep Yumkella off the presidential ballot, Kabba never questioned the right of Margai or any other candidate to seek the presidency nor did he and the SLPP file frivolous lawsuits to exclude opposition candidates from contesting the 2007 elections. Kabba did not infiltrate, weaken and compromise the opposition, media houses and civic organizations with “brown envelopes” nor did the late president exert the corrupting influence on our politics and institutions that is Koroma’s legacy.

The opposition APC in 2007 was stronger than the SLPP opposition in 2018, but these two parties are in greater disarray in 2018 compared to 2007 partly because they are virtually cut out from the same cloth.

All of this augurs well for the NGC and Yumkella.

The March elections provide us with a choice of one of the following: a syndicate of looters (APC), a consortium of hustlers (rump SLPP) and a party of progressives (NGC).

Yumkella has been able to capture the imagination of the youth, and this was something Margai never did or could do. The NGC has attracted some of the top brains in and outside the country with highly credentialed and accomplished personalities leading the way.

CONCLUSION

Contexts help shape but do not determine electoral outcomes and assuming the elections are free and fair, the NGC’s Yumkella should be favored to win the 2018 presidential contest. What happens in the parliamentary elections is anybody’s guess as the potential for vote-splitting may be greater this time around than in past elections.

Koroma is plainly investing more in the outcome of these elections than Kabba was in 2007 and may feel less constrained to subvert the election results. Kabba, like Sirleaf most recently in Liberia, never actively campaigned for Berewa but Koroma does more campaigning for Samura than the latter does for himself.

Less committed to democratic governance than his predecessor, it remains to know what Koroma will do when his party loses next month, but nothing the lame-duck president can do is going to beat back the resolve of our people for new leadership or the irresistible force for change.

Ten years in office is more than enough, and it is time for EBK and his criminal syndicate to exit peacefully and allow our country to grow, develop and prosper. A developing country benefits all (NGC) but a state where only a few flourish (APC) can never improve.

Editor’s Note:

This article by Professor Jimmy D. Kandeh appeared on his Facebook page under the title, “Comparing the 2007 and 2018 Elections”  Read original article here: https://www.facebook.com/jimmy.kandeh/posts/10155275474410814.

Be the first to comment on "Comparing the 2007 and 2018 Elections"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.


*



3 + 5 =