A political system designed for deceitful scoundrels

Mahmud Tim Kargbo: Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 October 2018

Sierra Leoneans’ distrust of their political system is at an all-time high. Many of us are concerned about the dysfunction in State House and Parliament, and whether things will ever get better.

Politics is an industry and the two dominant competitors do everything in their power to focus on serving their sycophant and bootlicking supporters and the special interests of those supporters.

From my research, I suggest the root cause of our political gridlock and dysfunction is the absence of competition itself.

I bring an analytical approach to studying Sierra Leone’s political system, applying the renowned five forces analysis to diagnose the causes of our failing political system.

Sierra Leoneans should expect four outcomes from their political system: Practical solutions that solve our nation’s most pressing problems; Legislations advanced through Parliament; Broad-based buy-in from voters; Respect for the rights of all voters.

The reality, however, is that none of these expectations are even remotely met.

Our political system is made up of actors who are gain-seeking. The two major parties are self-servingly competing to accumulate resources and political influence.

The two parties compete to reinforce partisan divisions, as opposed to delivering practical solutions.

As a result, both parties are incentivised not to solve our nation’s problems because keeping a problem or controversy alive, according to my research, is a way to attract and motivate their voters, special interests and donors.

Moreover, there’s no accountability for politicians if problems aren’t solved or progress is not made. We don’t vote party leaders and legislators out of office for poor performance.

So, what’s the solution?

The only way to reform the system is to alter the structure of the system and its underlying rules. The top two parties should always be operating under the threat of competition from a group that better serves the public interest.

We can never forget that the political system we have today was designed by our own elected representatives – the people we voted into office. This system has been corrupted over time, and most of have not even noticed.

We have the power to reinvigorate our democracy, and we must.

By nearly every single token, our political system is thriving – from the business sense. Campaigns continue to rake in billions of Leones and draw in endless consultants and media pundits.

In terms of solving our nation’s most pressing economic challenges and rising economic inequalities, the political system in Sierra Leone ranks as the number one barrier.

The political industry, however, is different from any other industry in Sierra Leone. The reason is because the participants in the political industry control the rules of competition.

The absence of transparency in the political industry has undermined our democracy, with redistricting suggesting that politicians choose their voters instead of voters choosing them.

Healthy political competition suggests that industry actors would compete to deliver desired outcomes for us as voters. The LSE- Oxford Commission on State Fragility, Growth and Development report launched in March 2017 to guide policy to address state fragility, should make each of us think more deeply about healthy competition and what that means.

If the current system is failing us, healthy competition would find a way of bringing in a newcomer who would offer better value.

Healthy competition is a win-win, with rivals and voters doing the best they can to make the nation better.

We should never forget that we as voters have the means to fix our political system – and more importantly – that we must fix it.

1 Comment

  1. An article that is well written and well researched. But how can we change the present status quo, when political outcomes are based on tribal or regional allegiance? And probably external interference?

    Having an opposition with 68 seats and a ruling party with 49 seats in parliament – undoubtedly, the country is left in some kind of a stalemate. How did we come to find ourselves in this conundrum?

    The present political chaos in the country is as a result of this fiasco. It is too early to make predictions. Let’s wait and see how the political landscape is going to unravel.

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