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Postponement of census may hinder conduct of elections

- says National Electoral Commission

April 16, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie

TOUGH TASK … Chairperson of NEC, N’fa Alie Conteh

TOUGH TASK … Chairperson of NEC, N’fa Alie Conteh

The National Electoral Commission (NEC) has said that the postponement of the National Population Census to December 2015 will have serious consequences on the timeline of the delimitation of constituencies and wards for the conduct of local council and general elections.

Sierra Leone last had boundary delimitation for constituency elections in November 2006 and for local council ward elections in 2008, thus NEC should have delimited boundaries in 2013/2014 in order to meet the provisions in the legal framework.

Since the national census provisional figures will be expected in March 2016 and the publication of final results in February 2017, it will impact on the commission’s timeline for the conduct of local council elections scheduled for late 2016, and parliamentary elections scheduled for either late 2017 or early 2018, the commission said in a position paper.

According to NEC, the deferment of the census timeline also has legal implications on their activities with respect to the conduct of elections because, “the absence of reviewed electoral boundaries limits the commission to conduct parliamentary and local council elections, since such elections may be challenged in a court of law on the legal basis of a breach of Section 38(4) of the 1991 Constitution”.

“The NEC cannot delimit electoral boundaries until after the conduct of the National Population Census. The National Population Census shall be used as a parameter for the determination of population quota and the delimitation process. The population quota is provided for in Section 38 subsection 6 of the Constitution,” the commission highlighted. “Given NEC’s inability to review the old boundaries because of the aforementioned situation, the commission may be accused or challenged in court for not performing or breaching of its constitutional function.”

For the way forward, the electoral management body suggested that they either conduct the next parliamentary elections using the District Block Representation (DBR) as amended [by] Section 38A (3) or amend the relevant sections of the constitution and use old constituency and ward boundaries until after census, as well as deferring the next local council elections until after the delimitation of new boundaries.

It furthered suggested that Parliament amends Section 38 subsection 7 of the 1991 Constitution which states, “For the purposes of this section the number of inhabitants of Sierra Leone shall be ascertained by reference to the last census of the population of Sierra Leone held in pursuance of an Act of Parliament or if no census has been so held, by reference to any available information, which in the opinion of the Electoral Commission best indicates the number of those inhabitants”.