Analyst Edie P.J. Vandy- Takes a look at the Coalition’s Dilemma.
Friday August 19, 2005
Mainstream media continues to blog on the rising prominence of a Third Force as count down to the 2007 Presidential and Parliamentary elections looms near. Already five political parties, with more to join, under the guise of a coalition are set to replace the dominance of the SLPP and the APC. A laudable venture, aimed at streaming down the proliferation of parties (without substance and have no business to be around in the first place), from crowding the political arena. Good.
The question many are asking is, “why the label of a Third Force to bolster this agenda”? Proponents of the initiative walks tall, take credence on their current numerical strength, and supposedly new direction and a leadership underpinning the merger. Opponents contend the notion, and promulgate that mere political pitching and tactical re-grouping of parties does not constitute an ideology of a Third Force: which emphasizes morality and performance, with a leadership structure depicting proven accomplishment in all walks of life. By design, the Third Force symbolizes a new breed of politician’s with a mindset of change. Failed and recycled politicians who’ve outlived their usefulness, and others caught up in corruption scandals should be non-participants in the new dispensation code-named the Third Force. Accountability is a watchword. To them breaking new grounds means taken such tough stands on key core values, on morality, corruption and good governance. A new party, Sierra Leonean Advocate for Progress (SLAP), seems position to hammer home the vision of a THIRD FORCE. They must be commended for taken on this challenge, and we wish them well.
The Coalition of Political Parties on the other hand, depicts a party for all, and downplays the importance of high morals and achievements. Theirs is a win mission at all cost and the formation of the next government, is all that matters. If this is the avowed goal, I see no distinction between the Coalition and the SLPP or APC targeted to replace? I see a continuation of the status quo, as the same political faces: stained, recycled and tired faces, keeps jumping fences from one party to the other for greener pastures. The UNPP, PNC, PPP, NPP and PDP, etc. are all offshoots of the APC, and their leaderships at point in time big time play-makers of their former party. Well meaning citizenry will give a serious thought on their defection, if at all to the coalition on this simple fact.
The Coalition of Parties vow, to take on the might of the ruling SLPP and their patron the APC, but will they? Very doubtful. They will be plaque with a leadership hassle and will not have the numerical strength and funding to play the game like the two targeted for replacement. Along the line, disaster looms. Mark this. The Coalition is going to crumble before you even know it. This is not the first time. Remember the Grand Alliance in 2002? It was another grandiose plan, but choice of leadership sent each parking own way. I hope not this time around. You see, political hallmarks indicate that Coalition of Political Parties has always included key political parties, to take on the incumbency, and victory is certainly assured in most cases. Political Veteran Mwai Kibaki and his National Rainbow coalition (Narc) won a landslide victory over the ruling KANU party in the Dec. 2002 elections. The opposition was formidable. Not the case with the Coalition. For how could they put up a serious fight with the SLPP, without APC participation? Its all media hype and politicking by a few section of the press, who might have a stake in the process itself?
Forget about an en-mass defection by die-hearted SLPP or APC party stalwarts to the Coalition, as it a false premise of hope. Of course, there is frustration in the rank and file of party memberships, and some cross carpeting will definitely happen, but will not translate into massive pledge of alliance with the Coalition. The grass root support base for the SLPP and the APC parties are solid and unshakeable. And they have representation from all walks of life, just like for every other party including the Coalition. Don’t even say that the SLPP and the APC have no representation, because they do. The difference though is in numbers. These two giants have numbers, more than the coalition. Politics is all about numbers.
A review of the current Coalition membership shows terminally brain-dead parties, rejected by the electorates in the 2002 elections, and again marginalized in 1996. The parties cowing under a coalition canopy only exist as labels, and have nothing to show as proof of a serious political party. Their membership is restricted to only the cities? And where they do, could not even put up candidates and representations for contested elections, like parliamentary and local government election across the country. They simply lack manpower, recognition and founding for party politics. See what I mean, In the 2002 Presidential elections, the RUFP, MOP, CUPP, YPP, GAP and UNPP leadership combined, only pulled a mere 4.5 % of the total votes cast, which was disgraceful to say the least. Don’t you get the picture: UNPP is history, with or without Karefa Smart, and he knows it. His best shot is, show solidarity for the Coalition at least in writing. That charismatic leader, the chemistry that once connected with the electorates has evaporated, and he is now forgotten. PDP is obsolete, and dead with the passing off of the founder, late Thaimu Bangura (of blessed memories). Where lies the much talked-about coalition? Come on, this is media rhetoric’s and propaganda? The UNPP, and PDP’s emergence as a force in 1996, has been dubbed as a political miscalculation, and the mistakes now corrected. They were perceived as an appendage of the APC, and voted for thinking that the APC’s political life span was over, following a disgraceful exit from the seat of power in 1992, after near some three decades of stranglehold on power. That was then, this is now, as the APC has made a come back, taken over their support base, and rendering these break away parties impotent in the process.
1996 was the best opportunity for a coalition victory, as the APC was in disarray, at the same time, the SLPP was recuperating from political wilderness after years of hibernation. Self interest, lust for power and pettiness, from amongst there rank and file blew this life giving chance asunder. Ernest Koroma’s APC suffered a humiliating defeat pulling a mere 5 %, whilst Tejan Kabbah’s SLPP managed a moderate 36 % of the total votes cast, far short of forming a government. And the rest of the park, some 11 parties led by UNPP, and the PDP, united they were, would have had a wining streak of 59 % votes, and just enough to have given then a political mandate, under a coalition? The second ballot again perfected a coalition opportunity, under a UNPP alliance. This never happened, as some PDP supporters and SLPP breakaways overwhelmingly supported Tejan Kabbah, given him the needed victory by some 60% over rival John Karefa Smart’s 40%. Weird though few people still do not believe in this victory. Low mindedness, possibly, but who cares?
The political dynamics is now changed, the population more conscious and enlightened. Many called it “awareness”, at all levels, with the grassroots and women fully involved, and a dynamic civil society, just some of the good things coming out of the war. Sierra Leoneans are no longer fools. They know that their own destiny is in own hands. This mindset, translated into a resounding 2002 presidential victory for Tejan Kabbah’s SLPP with a comfortable 70% (in a wow tee-tee victory) of the votes cast, followed by Ernest Koroma’s APC of 22%, with the rest of the other parties trailing by a mere 8%. Could you believe that, just 8%, very awful? What a pity for these parties, now re-grouped under a coalition. Do they stand a chance, definitely no!!
These statistics speaks by themselves. The people will once again reject a Coalition of Parties without APC participation. An APC re-emergence as a political force has been manifested in the 2002 elections, and in 2004 local government election, within the municipality of Freetown, where they made huge inroads, clinching the mayoral seat by a comfortable lead in the process. They are the party position for a meaningful challenge on the SLPP third term bid in 2007. A must win for the Coalition of Parties, is to court the APC to join their rank, which is doubtful, at least for now. Maybe the Coalition should pay homage to the APC, what about that?I see an uphill task for the Coalition to garner victory (with all the cross-carpeting trumpeted) over the APC, let alone the ruling SLPP party. Take my advice, or leave it: This Coalition will only be a force of contention with APC participation. Anything other than that is an illusion. Forget it; don’t even try it whilst you can. What a dilemma in the game politics for the Coalition.