With No Contending Flagbearer, Will President Bio Go Unopposed?
For people who do not fully understand electoral activities leading to the election, they would say it wouldn’t be possible for the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (ECSL) to announce President Julius Maada Bio unopposed. But, as it stands, the President can go unopposed.
From close observation, the ruling Sierra Leone Peoples Party (SLPP) and main opposition All Peoples Congress (APC) are the only parties anticipated by many to contest the 24th June 2023 presidential elections with the over a dozen smaller parties splitting their supports between the SLPP and APC.
If we are to go by the predicted and expected narrative, with the never-ending turmoil in the APC, then there is a huge possibility for President Bio to be legally and democratically declared unopposed by the country’s elections body.
It is important to state that it’s enshrined in the laws of Sierra Leone for the only candidate in the presidential election to be declared unopposed.
Now, for those who think there is still huge time for the APC to elect their presidential candidate, let us do some analyses and calculations. First, don’t be deceived by the election date [24 June 2023]. Line-up activities are leading to polling day. This includes the distribution of voter ID cards, the nomination of presidential candidates, campaigns, and the presidential election itself. In all of these, the most crucial electoral activity connected to the subject matter here is the nomination process.
The nomination process is when parties present the names of their presidential candidates to the Electoral Commission. It is a whole process on its own, having procedural steps to follow before a candidate is declared duly nominated.
Interestingly, the ECSL has the exclusive authority to determine and announce any time for nomination. Though the law does not give a specific time for the nomination process, the nomination of presidential candidates usually takes place a few months before elections. It is important to reiterate that the Chief Electoral Officer is empowered by law to declare any date for nomination. No candidate is deemed eligible to contest after the nomination period.
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It is in the nomination process that candidates are vetted and cleared to contest. In fact, after the 2018 elections, foreign elections observer missions advised the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone to give a wider period between the nomination of candidates and the election. This they said would allow people to know their candidates, object to their candidature, and give sufficient time for the judiciary to timely and adequately adjudicate on objected nomination cases ample time before the election.
Now, let us assume that ECSL decides to implement the crucial advice of election observers’ missions and announce late February or early March as the nomination period. Now, see why President Bio would be declared unopposed.
The APC has not completed any of its intraparty elections which should eventually lead to the election of the party’s presidential candidate. Even the recently concluded ward elections across the country are being largely petitioned at the Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) by APC members. They are asserting that the said lower-level elections were marred with irregularities.
Aside from the contested ward elections, there are still constituency, district, regional, national, and party organ elections that have not been done. Talk less of the election of the party flagbearer.
To worsen everything, lawyers in the APC are in court to challenge the proportional representation (PR) system recently declared by ECSL as the election model for the 2023 parliamentary and local government elections. No need to go deep into this because the matter awaits a ruling at the Supreme Court.
Moreover, the party is still deeply divided. There are verbal attacks and counter-attacks traded by intraparty rivalry factions daily.
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It is logical to say that with the protracted conflict in the APC and the likelihood of the non-participation of other political parties in the presidential election coupled with the conduct of the presidential nomination process at any time soon, President Bio would likely go unoppose