By Ophaniel Gooding
The AG explained that the Public Elections Act 2022 is an apt display of President Bio’s determination in ensuring that “we continue to live in a decent country and continue to hold free and fair elections.”
He said he is very much satisfied with the Act because it is very important for a functioning democracy in the 21st century.
According to the AG, “after every election period, we try to revisit our laws to ensure that we have a very strong democracy; a democracy that is inclusive of every shade and every individual. This new law gives the Electoral Commissioner of Sierra Leone the independence to be able to function without any fear or favor, the Commissioners would now have the latitude to do their work without any hindrance.”
He also explained that the Government was very successful to make it a law that political parties adequately nominate women as candidates for parliamentary elections.
Adding that Section 59(2 of the Act states that for every 3 candidate nominated for Member of Parliament one should be a female.
The AGMOJ was very successful in getting overwhelming support of the entire parliament for Section 59(2) of the Act.
The AGMOJ further added that one key area which the opposition was clamoring about was the district block or proportional representation system.
He explained that the district block or proportional representation system mentioned in the Bill was not any new thing because it is already a law in Sierra Leone.
“It was included in the Bill just for reference sake,” he stated.
The AGMOJ added that “the PR system is part of the laws of Sierra Leone, as provided in Sections 38 and 38a of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone.”
“Sections 38 and 38a make provision for the two systems of elections that would be conducted in Sierra Leone either by constituency or by proportional representation and so there was no amendment to it because the Bill is saying all public elections shall be conducted in Sierra Leone pursuant to the Constitution of Sierra Leone and Sections 38 and 38 are part of the Constitution of Sierra Leone, so there was no amendment save only the change of language as initially as it was in the Bill, ” the Minister stated.
The AGMOJ also said that the new Bill has empowered the Electoral Commissioners to execute their duties without fair or favor.
In the previous administration, there were a lot of difficulty in announcing the election date but however with the new Act President Bio has taken a bold step to transfer that authority to the Electoral Commission so that they could announce the election date.
The AGMOJ said, “with the new Act, ECSL now has the right to cancel any election result in any area because of electoral violence or malpractice.”
With regards to the National Identification Number, the AGMOJ explained that although the NIN was not captured in the Act yet the ECSL has the right and responsibility to generate voters’ identification numbers for every Sierra Leonean eligible to vote in a general election.
He said the Voters Identification Number would be linked up with NCRA’s data base to ensure that every Sierra Leonean is captured and given their unique NIN. He said this number will help to curb electoral malpractices and fraud.
It was a success on the part of the Government in legislating a new electoral law that provides for over 30% of women to be nominated to Parliament in every general election and also a success for Government through the AG in ensuring that elections are conducted according to the constitution and the laws of Sierra Leone that are in force.