To Renew or Not… Chief Electoral Commissioner’s Position Hangs on the Balance

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Mohamed N’Fa Allie Conteh

The position of Chief Electoral Commissioner is such a very sensitive one considering the fact that he is Head of the National Electoral Commission, the institution that is constitutionally mandated to conduct all public elections in the country. According to constitutional provisions, the sitting Head of State has the sole prerogative to appoint a new Chief Electoral Commissioner but such an appointment is subject to Parliamentary Approval.

Currently there is a school of thought which believes that the fate of the head of Sierra Leone’s National Electoral Commission (NEC) has been thrown into doubt with an alleged appointment of an Acting Chief Electoral Commissioner after the substantive holder went on terminal leave.

Mohamed N’Fa Allie Conteh’s leave is scheduled to end in February in 2020 which also marks the end of his first term in office. He will require his contract to be renewed by the President for him to continue.

Before he left, Mr Conteh wrote to the presidency, informing it of the expiry of his tenure. It was said that the response of State House was leaked on social media indicating that someone was appointed as Chairman in an Acting capacity prompting members of the public to start to interpret the intention of the SLPP led Government in different.

It must be noted that the Chief Electoral Commissioner can serve not more than two terms of five years each. Conteh was appointed by former President Ernest Bai Koroma. He presided over the Presidential election that brought Bio to power in 2018.

Some are expressing surprise that his term will not be renewed.

But a government spokesman on Thursday rejected suggestions about the president’s intention.

Information Minister, Mohamed Rahman Swaray, said whatever decision President Julius Maada Bio would take, would be done in line with constitutional provision.

“This president respects democracy. N’Fa Allie still remains the NEC Chairman. His terminal leave will end soon – February,” Swaray said in a radio interview. But he declined to comment on the possibility of him coming.

“The president will respect the law, but whether he (Conteh) comes or not will be a matter for another day,” he said.

 

 

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