Sierra Leone
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2023 Elections: Voter apathy likely  

By Ishmael Dumbuya

As Sierra Leone gears up for its forthcoming elections in June 24th this year, we have seen of late the hectic and full swing political campaigns’ by the incumbent and the main opposition across the country. It’s no doubt that the country’s political participation and journey have been plagued by controversies such as corruption and accusations of tribalism.

Many Sierra Leoneans now view politics as a distraction that shouldn’t be taken seriously. Couple of weeks ago when the Electoral Commission for Sierra Leone (EC-SL) started the distribution of voters’  IDs, a lot of people declined going to the EC-SL to collect their cards, expressing their frustrations that nothing will change about the governorship of the country and that politicians want to take them as dummies and care less about citizens when it comes to job creation, economy and national development. These controversies in the minds of supporters of both camps seem to flare up issues of voter apathy in the country.

Furthermore, in 2018, the people of Sierra Leone wanted a change in government, as they complained about the austerity the APC government  plunged the country into. So, the SLPP party stalwarts were all over the place campaigning that they will fix the economic challenges if they are elected, not knowing that their own administration will be more severe and dire.

Few months along the line after the election of the SLPP, the country’s economic situation exacerbated, even though every now and then the COVID-19 pandemic and the Ukraine war are blamed for the economic challenges. Thus, all of these mistrusts between politicians and the citizens have greatly deepened the issue of people not wanting to participate in the electoral processes of the country.

In the build up to the June 24th Election this year, the SLPP is trumpeting a landslide and “no run off” outcome, whereas the APC is quietly boisterous about their “back to power”.

For instance, if we look at the turnout that accompanied Samura to Freetown, it is plausible to conclude that the injunction to stop the APC convention might have energised the party base, even though most SLPP supporters believe that most of those who attended the rally were not registered voters. In politics, it is one thing to have large rallies, but an entirely different case for registered voters, who go out and vote on the day.

Another thing that’s worth mentioning with regard voter apathy, during the mid-term census, the APC predominantly advised its supporters to boycott the exercise, and by advising their supporters to boycott the Mid Term Census, the APC has induced a stance of non-engagement with the government among its supporters. And I’m of the conviction that most of these supporters did not register during an exercise that was overseen by the same government they boycotted.

Many political parties rely on census data among others to calibrate their electorate and their chances of winning, and I believe that is why the SLPP supporters are not worried about the rally that greeted Samura Kamara in Freetown, as it’s not crowd at rallies’ that determines winning but registered voters’ crowd.