- Political parties
Section 35 (1) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone requires political parties to contribute to shaping the political will of their members and the electorates and to disseminate information on economic, social and political ideas. This mandate has evidently been neglected by all political parties who have focused their energies on mobilizing young people for political rallies and giving wrong information to party members, which resulted in negative confrontations as noted in Freetown, Mile 91 and other places.
Additionally, the Commission slowly and with significant challenges followed the nomination process of all registered Political Parties with the National Electoral Commission and identified a number of issues including weak internal party governance, political intolerance, limited information flow, breach of party constitutions and limited inclusion of women in party governance.
- The Electorates and other members of Political Parties
Another challenge of the commission is the debate between citizenship identity and party allegiance. Evidently, the electorate in general did not engage on political issues or ideas but most often than not, citizens engaged on parochial issues which resulted in violence.
- The Media and its Impact on the Conduct of Political Parties
It was observed that stories and banner headlines published in some local tabloids did not engender the atmosphere for good multi-partism. This concern was also noted by international observers, who confirmed that some headlines were inflammatory in nature.
Additionally, it was observed that the manner in which radio interviews were conducted and questions crafted were often not helpful to political parties and their supporters to make informed choices. Interviews and responses even helped to reinforce stereotypes and create suspicion and tension among political parties.
Inadequate support from Government
Even though the Commission was established through a constitutional provision, it is still heavily donor funded. In fact, about 90% of the Commissions programs are funded by international organizations including the United Nations and International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES).
Inadequate Office space
Although the Commission is among the most important public offices in the Country, office space in many units is a significant constraint on reaching parity with other state institutions and even some of the registered Political Parties. Cramped and inadequate office space is a serious obstacle to visibility and acknowledgement of the work of the Commission. A modern infrastructure with state-of-the-art facilities, adequate office space is necessary for the Commission to carry out its primary mission. Planning for growth in the Commission and programs must go hand-in-hand with planning for adequate space.
A major challenge of the commission is inadequate number of staff to meet the growing demands on the commission. During the elections, in a bid to increase its capacity, the Commission recruited a significant number of staff, some on an ad hoc basis, to adequately monitor the activities of the Political Parties during this period.
ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES
In response to some of the aforementioned challenges, the Commission has embarked on the concept of Political Education. This flagship programme of the Commission is an alternate approach aimed at sensitizing the membership of political parties, the Sierra Leone Labour Congress, Civil Society Organizations, Women and youth groups about positive attitudes, knowledge, and skills for effective multi-party governance in Sierra Leone.
The Commission, through its Political Education program, aims to convince Political Parties that elections are won by policies and ideas and not by the use of abusive, insulting and unsavoury language, violence and intolerance. The Commission is of the view that political education has many accruing benefits in that it increases human capital and lowers the costs of political activity due to a better informed citizenship.
Moreover, this approach will help engender an understanding of political party policies and programmes, political participation, the reasons for the existence of political parties and their responsibilities to their members and the electorate as a whole.
In short, this action will contribute to create a critical mass of well informed Sierra Leoneans on political and party issues that will help in achieving PILLAR 7 (Good Governance) & 8 (Gender Equality and women’s empowerment) in the Agenda for Prosperity PRS III thereby leading to sustainable development.
In conclusion, the Commission calls on the government to endeavour to meet the financial obligations of the Commission. PPRC as an institution and the country as a whole are faced with enormous challenges that, if not handled on time, will cripple the institution and not only the institution but democracy in Sierra Leone and ultimately undermine sustainable economic development in Sierra Leone