Civil Society calls for Compulsory Voter Registration

By Abu Bakarr Kargbo

The National Youth Coalition in collaboration with the Sierra Leone Civil Rights Coalition consider voter apathy as the most formidable threat to the country’s fledgling democracy and civic responsibility, which over the years has tilted the political landscape and given the interested minority the power to reign over the majority. In a news conference organized by both organizations on Tuesday 10th January 2012 at the Harry Yansanneh Memorial Hall, they pointed out that the phenomenon of political apathy is common even in developed democracies in the West. “In order to stop political indifference from usurping the future of freedom, many countries have put in place legislation to ensure the voters register and vote during elections,” they stated in a press release, citing an example to Australia where absenting from voting has legal implications; and in the United Kingdom, not being in the voter’s register will immediately limit an individual access to services and entitlement.

In Sierra Leone, they stated, failing to register as a voter will exempt one from major political appointments throughout the life of the Government.

The two Coalitions stated that political participation in the form of registration for voting and voting is in the life blood of democracy. “Without it, democracy is better defined as a Government of the elite and affluent,” they revealed, opining that voter registration and voting during elections should be made compulsory through legislation, so as to place the mass of the people as a fortification to forestall the stealing of the country’s freedom.

“The eligibility of the Sierra Leonean of voting age to any entitlement, services and even leadership at local level (such as clubs, associations, unions etc.) should be premised on his or her eligibility as a registered voter in national elections,” the release states, and further suggested that not registering to vote should, therefore, translate to immediate exemption from political participation at any level.  

Both the National President of National Youth Coalition, Ishmael Al-sankoh Conteh and Executive Secretary of Sierra Leone Civil Rights Coalition, Salieu A. B. Kargbo  view the nonparticipation in the voter’s registration and voting process as reneging on serving the state; the state in turn should deprive the individual of certain benefit to ensure compliance. It serves national interest to evolve a democratic process that is truly participating. “What we are proposing already exist in one form or another; all what we are asking for is to extend the scope so as to embrace the many languishing on the fringes of our democracy,” they stated. Democracy, they went on to state is all about the people, but apathy born out of illiteracy is on the verge of excluding the people from participating. “A law on compulsory voter registration and voting, if enacted, will bring the people to the arena of democracy to serve as moral guarantors of the future of freedom,” say the two Coalitions, and further note that democracy is a necessity for the survival of the state.

“It is therefore commonsense that we create the legal infrastructure to ensure its survival. We you urge the leadership of all political parties to undertake robust nonviolence campaign for peaceful elections. It is the responsibility of citizens, within the voting age to register and vote during national elections because it is the rights and responsibility of the people,” the stated. 


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