By Othello B. Garblah
As Liberians prepare to head to the polls in October to retain or elect a new president and 88 Lawmakers out of 103, recent elections results filtering in from neighboring Sierra Leone appear to have given supporters of the ruling Coalition for Democratic Change (CDC) some false hope of a massive first-round victory on October 10.
These ruling party zealots believe that the Sierra Leone election results are direct reflection of the outcome of Liberia’s October polls.
In what was described as a tense election, the people of Sierra Leone voted to give incumbent President Julius Maada Bio a second term on June 24.
According to Sierra Leone’s Election Commission, Bio, 59, received 56.17% of total votes cast to avoid a presidential runoff against his closest rival from the All People’s Congress Party (ACP).
President Maada Bio was declared winner of the June 24 polls and swiftly sworn in for a second term immediately after the result was announced on Tuesday, June 27.
The “re-election” of incumbent Maada Bio using a modified version of the Sierra Leone electoral law as it relates to the two-round system, with a candidate having to receive more than 55% of the vote in the first round to be elected has emboldened many CDCians to boost of a first-round victory.
But here’s the thing-Liberia is not Sierra Leone.
Sierra Leone’s politics are strongly divided on tribal lines. Although the country recorded 13 political parties’ participation in its just-ended election, the two main political parties; Sierra Leone People’s Party (SLPP) of Maada Bio and Samura Kamara’s ACP are strongly divided on tribal lines.
For example, incumbent President Maada Bio is from Sierra Leone’s second largest ethnic group Mende. According to Wikipedia, Mende makes up 31.2% of Sierra Leone’s population. The Mende predominates the Southern Province and Eastern Sierra Leone (except for Kono District). They are often referred to as Southeasterners. Although, there are arguments that swing the majority number in their favor.
Meanwhile, the ACP of opposition candidate Samura Kamara is said to base its strength on the Temne ethnic group, the largest ethnic grouping in Sierra Leone. According to Wikipedia, the Temne people make up 35.5% of Sierra Leone’s population. They predominate the Northern Province and the areas around Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown.
Therefore, the tension which usually marred Sierra Leone’s elections is purely based on tribal sentiments.
However, unlike Sierra Leone, Liberia’s politics are driven by tribal diversity. There is no political party that has its strength based on a tribal majority or minority. Why it is true that of recent, the regional card has come into play, but that is yet to have any significant bearing on Liberians’ voting pattern.
This is due in part to the cross-cultural movement of political parties, with candidates seeking votes from regions considered most populated by featuring natives from those regions on their tickets and creating a crowded field. This difference makes it difficult if not impossible for a party to win an election in the first round.
Therefore, to think that the ruling party or any of the two main opposition parties-Unity Party and Collaborating Political Party (CPP) can win a first-round victory is just a figment of one’s imagination.