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Controversy over voter ID cards…

NEW demands explanation

May 24, 2017 By Joseph S. Margai

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NEW Chairperson, Marcella Samba-Sesay….. demands immediate explanation from government regarding ID cards

National Elections Watch (NEW) has called for an explanation from the government regarding the type of identity cards to be issued to registrants.

Just after the completion of the voter registration process, the National Electoral Commission (NEC) muted the possibility of using a locally laminated ID cards instead of the ECOWAS complaint multi-purpose identity card because of funding.

The statement by the commission’s Director of Media and External Relations, Albert Massaquoi was greeted with mix-feelings by some members of the pubic, especially civil society organizations.

In a press statement dated Monday 22 May, 2017, NEW stated that ensuing discussions regarding the type of identity cards to be issued to registrants conflict with earlier information that a smart, Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) compliant, multi-purpose identity card will be issued to all citizens at the end of the NCVR process..

“Whilst we call on the government to make a statement or clarification on this issue, NEW will support any process that will add value to the integrity of the electoral process,” the release stated.

According to the organization, despite the challenges in capturing NEC’s targeted figures of registrants, especially in the Western Urban area, they endorsed the two weeks extension of the registration process even though the extension period was not necessarily needed in all the 3,300 registration centres because a number of centres in rural communities registered zero for the most part.

NEW recommended that in future, a strategic needs assessment should be carried out by NEC to ascertain in which areas/centers across the country an extension will be needed.

Also, the organization expressed concern with regards the low presence of state security personnel, who were for the first time assigned as queue controllers in addition to their regular elections policing role in the particular registration process.

The government and development partners were urged to provide the requisite support to state security agencies to deliver on their responsibilities in the electoral process.

“More importantly, there is need to support the Office of National Security (ONS) to roll out its Integrated Elections Security Strategy (IESS), a consultative document which is the road map for security and peace in the 2018 elections,” NEW stated in the release.

NEW urged NEC and other stakeholders to immediately engage in a massive voter education and sensitization campaign on the exhibition of the provisional voters register, which is the next phase in the development of the voters register.

While acknowledging the commitment to the electoral process by the government and the international community so far, they appealed for adequate resources to be allocated to the electoral process so that the stipulated timelines of the electoral calendar are adhered to.