By Foday Moriba Conteh
During a well-attended Stakeholders/ National Political Parties Liaison Committee Meeting held on Sunday 21st May, 2023 at the PPRC Conference Room in Freetown, the Chief Electoral Commissioner, Chairman and National Returning Officer, Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, Mohamed Konneh, has declared election campaign period open for the Presidential, Parliamentary and Local Council elections 2023.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner, while making the declaration said in the exercise of powers vested by Section 154 of the Public Elections Act, 2022 (Act No 17 of 2022); and after having made consultations with registered Political Parties and Candidates contesting the said elections; he hereby as Chief Electoral Commissioner, Chairman, and National Returning Officer, declare the following: Tuesday 23rd May – Thursday 22nd June 2023 (from 7:00 am- 5:00 pm daily) as the period for Election Campaigns in Sierra Leone, Friday 23rd June 2023 – Cooling-off Period and Saturday 24th June 2023 – Election day.
He called on Political Parties, Candidates, and their supporters to abide by all the Laws and Regulations on Election Campaigns and the PPRC Regulatory Framework on Political Campaigns that Political Parties have signed up to.
Before his declaration he used the opportunity to address all on the preparedness of the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone in the conduct of the June 24, 2023 elections.
Mohamed Konneh said that the Commission is ready to provide the enabling environment for peaceful elections and logistical arrangement, adding that the Commission has so far completed the nomination process and has released the list of presidential candidate gazette. He, however, revealed that the Commission has received a petition against the All People’s Congress (APC) but said their lawyers are ready to attend to the Supreme Court’s request or invitation to respond to the petition.
He said that the Commission has finalized the voter register and will commence printing of it within the shortest period of time and once they start, the Commission will provide all the aggregated data on their website so that political parties can go and check.
The Chief Electoral Commissioner said that Civil Society Organizations and political parties and other partners have requested to audit their system of which he said the Commission will not allow any Civil Society Organization, political party or partner to audit their system.
Earlier, the National Coordinator, Office of the National Security, Abdulai Caulker, said that after the pronouncement of the election campaign period by the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, the second highest Committee, that is the National Security Council Coordinating Group, reactive the Integrated Elections Security Planning Committee, adding that the Committee has been planning in order to usher credible free and fair elections in the country.
He used the opportunity to highlight some of the issues they have identified during their assessment including Political intolerance, the use of social media to spread inciting messages, the use of Martials by political parties etc. He called on all to follow due processes during the elections processes and that the security sector is ready to provide security to all political parties.
Abdulai Caulker further called on all ,including radio stations, to avoid the announcement of elections results, stating that it is the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone that is mandated to announce elections result and further urged political parties to adhere to campaign timeliness as stipulated by the Commission.
The Executive Secretary of the Independent Commission for Peace and National Cohesion, Hawa Samai, said that the Commission has been dialoguing with political parties and stakeholders in order to enhance peace and national cohesion in the country, which she said the Commission will continue in vain.
She disclosed how the Commission has set up mediation teams, peace monitors, peace coalition etc. in all the 16 districts of Sierra Leone, stating that the Commission in partnership with the Office of the National Security has also established a Situation Room and a toll free line 898.
The Executive Secretary encouraged political parties to use the different referrals to report any issue as there are mediators to address their concerns.
The Chairman of the Political Parties Regulation Commission, Abdulai Bangura, said that PPRC has put a number of activities in order to create the enabling environment for political parties and the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone for them to do their work effectively.
He said that PPRC together with all registered political parties and relevant stakeholders have agreed on the mode of the campaign during the elections and in addition they have also developed a guideline that will assist political parties to guide their supporters, respecting their conduct during their campaign activities.
Abdulai Bangura noted that PPRC will monitor all political parties to ensure that they adhere to the campaign calendar. He informed all that Commission will be staging a peace march .
During the event, the Director of Communications at the Electoral Commission of Sierra Leone, Albert Massaquoi did a presentation on the Electoral Campaign Format which was followed by political parties balloting to determine the elections campaign period for all the political parties.