The Milton Margai Technical University (MMTU) on Tuesday 26th July 2022 continued with its Solade Adams Public Lecture Series on the topic: Understanding the District Block Representation (DBR) System/Proportional Representation (PR) at the Great Hall of the Goderich campus in Freetown.
Dr. Julius Spenser, former Minister of Information, poet and play writer, revealed that the PR system means changing from the DBR winner takes all system, that the current political system is divisive, that the country is almost in the middle of moving towards ethnicity, that politicians fan the flames of ethnicity, that politics has now become a do or die battle and the surest way to get wealth while the majority of the people are not served and that people think they have no stake in governance lamenting that everything in the country is now politicized.
He continued that the country is not focused on development, that the first past the post political system is not good for the country as worldwide it protects only two parties and that the PR system facilitates the election of legislators, enhances fair representation of all, is the must-widely used system in the world with 94 out of 195 countries in the world practicing it.
According to Dr. Spenser, politicians are selfish and want to monopolize power, that the PR system breeds violence including inter and intra-party violence, that the country used the PR system in the 2007 and 2012 elections, that the threshold to win a seat in the PR is based on the percentage of votes, that the PR system has benefits for the people and mentioned the two different types of PRs- the party list, the close and open party list respectively.
In his presentation, the former Chairman of the National Electoral Commission (NEC), Mr. Mohamed Nfai Alie Contehcommended the government of President Julius Maada Bio for transforming the institution to a Technical University, clarified that he is not a politician, that an electoral system is the arrangement by which votes are cast, that Sierra Leone’s electoral system stems from its colonial past, that politicians choose the electoral system that works for them considering social factors like the civil war.
He went on to reveal that there are inherent advantages of the PR system, recalled that in 2002 the entire country was one constituency, that the District Block System is very unique to the country, that the number of votes are divided by the number of seats in Parliament, that with the PR system people vote for the party list and not individuals and that the District Block system was used in the 2002 elections.
According to Mr. Mohamed N’fa Alie Conteh, there are no bye-elections in the PR system that was used in the 1996 and 2002 elections because the entire country was not accessible due to the rebel war as well as access to reliable data.
He further highlighted the merits of the PR system as fair relationship between votes cast and seats in parliament, fair representation of minorities, cost-effective, no bye-elections, improves women’s representation in parliament citing Rwanda with the highest number of women in parliament worldwide, inclusiveness, protects minority interests, secures representation of all parties and groups, less lobbying and other forms of pressure, gives ample choice of candidates to voters, avoids wastage of votes informing that the District Block is a form of PR.
Cataloging the demerits of the PR, Mr. Mohamed N’fa AlieConteh said it encourages splinter parties that leads to coalitions, has technical difficulties, that voters do not have the opportunity to influence their choice of candidates, no link between Members of Parliament and the people concluding that the PR system has more advantages for the country than the District Block.
The chairman of the Independent Media Commission and chairman of the event, Dr. Victor Massaquoi recalled three years ago when the first Solade Adams Public Lectures were held during which the family of the honoree was invited, that the two speakers who are heavyweights would discuss the merits and demerits of the PR and District Block systems to increase the knowledge and understanding of both lecturers and students as well as create a communication link to disseminate the outcome.
Earlier in his welcome remarks, the Vice Chancellor and principal of MMTU, Dr. Philip John Kanu enlightened that the Solade Adams Public Lectures is in honor of the first African principal of the institution and that it is prudent for the university to discuss critical national issues and proffer solutions to be cascaded to the people.
The Acting Dean of the Faculty of Social Sciences, MMTU, Mr. Ishmael Kebby, introduced the two speakers.
Highlights of the event were the question and answer session and the vote of thanks by a student.
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