The Government of Sierra Leone (GoSL) is set to sensitize the people on the 50% +1 threshold proposed in the Government White Paper which His Excellency President Brig. (Rtd) Julius Maada Bio launched in January, this year.

The significance of this recent constitutional development is predicated on the fact that in July, 1999 when the different warring factions in the Sierra Leone civil conflict were negotiating for peace in Lome, Togo, there were calls for a review of the 1991 Constitution.

According to a constitutional lawyer, who appealed to remain anonymous, Article 10 of the resulting Lome Peace Accord called for a review of the 1991 Constitution to ensure it “represents the needs and aspirations” of the people. The constitutional lawyer said the country’s post-war Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC, which noted that the 1991 Constitution was not “the product of a wide, participatory process, felt it was desirable to reformulate the constitution.

As such, the learned lawyer said the main goal of the revised constitution by the late Justice Edmond Cowan, whose recommendations have been largely endorsed by the Bio administration, is to strengthen the existing multi-party democracy and to create an open and transparent society for national development where every Sierra Leonean will have an improved living standard. It could be recalled that the recently released Government White Paper included some “suggestions” from the government that were not covered in the late Justice Edmond Cowan’s Constitutional Review Committee’s recommendation, including fixed and predictable dates for national elections and inauguration, and a 50% +1 which the Government proposed in “view of the circumstances, insecurity, and expenses associated with run-offs…”

The constitutional lawyer believes that according to the proposed system, for one to be elected President, one must have secured a majority of at least fifty per cent of the valid votes cast, while he corroborated Government’s submission that the economic cost of run-off elections and national security concerns necessitate this alteration. He disagreed with critics arguing that the proposed change is an attempt to change rules of the game.

According to The Satellite Newspaper, the constitutional lawyers however averred it is implicit that in the event where there is not presidential candidate securing the majority of at least half of the national vote, a second round of voting must be held where the two top candidates must face off, noting that the winner of the runoff would then be declared President.