By Amin Kef Sesay

President Bio is duty bound to ensure that he encourages the National Electoral Commission (NEC) and all State agencies and Election Management stakeholders to provide the atmosphere for holding free and fair elections in 2023 if the peace and security of the State and its people are to remain guaranteed.

In this regard, President Bio and the New Direction Administration should not be oblivious to or try to in any way sweep under the carpet the EU Mission’s findings on the country’s post 2018 electoral climate in Sierra Leone which they described as such:

“The mission has been informed that there is a significant decrease in trust in the essential bodies which play integral roles in the forthcoming elections including the Judiciary, NEC, PPRC and the Police,” he stated.

The Mission Head further revealed that their findings are that these institutions’ reputations are less trusted than is needed.

Touching on the last bye- election, he said there are some lessons learnt from the management which according to him can be trialed in future bye elections.

He said the Election Follow up Mission encourages the National Electoral Commission to engage with all electoral stakeholders to address those issues in order to restore confidence in the Electoral Management said Bodies and strengthen both the transparency and integrity of the electoral process.

The EU Chief intimated that in their assessment, the Government has a role in providing both sufficient and timely funding – but equally importantly the political space – for these institutions to demonstrate their neutrality and independence which are absolutely essential for elections being recognized as credible by citizens and observers.

He said the Government has committed to the creation of a National Election Sustainable Trust Fund account – which if fully implemented would address one of the recommendations. So far, the details of this have not been communicated to the NEC and other bodies.

“If an election is declared void, according to Section 146.4 of the Public Elections Act, another election shall be held,” he stated. In continuation, he said, the 2019 High Court decisions to declare the runner up elected in 10 constituencies eroded the confidence in the Judiciary.

“Unequivocal respect for the rule of law in election petitions is crucial for ensuring confidence in the electoral process,” he maintained.

He said in addition, the delivery of timely effective judicial redress is a paramount feature regarding the fairness of election dispute resolution.

The EU Chief maintained that at the National Validation Conference on electoral reform in August 2021, consensus was reached regarding the need to revise courts’ procedural rules ensuring that election petitions are adjudicated within a reasonable period of time. “Justice delayed is justice denied, the same applies to democracy,” he stressed.

He further opined that the Mid-Term Census is unprecedented and the stated reason for it is highly contested.

He also stated that the use of an optional census to provide data which might be used to change electoral boundaries shortly before an election is not conducive to the political atmosphere or good electoral practice.

Hon. Norbert Neuser said the Mission repeats its recommendation that the voter register should be automatically produced from the civil register, which would save money and time. “We have not seen evidence that sufficient progress has been made on this important issue”.



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