October 2, 2015 By Alusine Sesay
While making their inputs to a discussion paper on challenges encountered by the National Electoral Commission (NEC) in respect of the electoral calendar, civil society organisations across the country yesterday voiced mixed emotions about the postponement of local council elections until 2018.
In their strategic plan spanning from 2015 to 2019, NEC dedicated a whole chapter which details their activities ranging from by-elections, boundary delimitation, voter registration to local council election and their respective dates.
The Local Government Act provides that local council elections should be conducted in 2016, but NEC has noted that the process would not be possible as a result of the postponement of the census that would determine electoral activities covering 2015 to 2019.
Statistics Sierra Leone has slated December 2015 for the census and promised to produce provisional result by March which, according to NEC, they would use to delimit constituency and ward boundaries across the country, as the current constituency and ward boundaries have become obsolete, having existed for more than the statutory time limit of seven years.
Hence NEC says it is impracticable to use the same boundaries for the next round of elections.
As they had previously engaged political parties on the issue, the commission yesterday engaged civil society organisations to have their say on the widely debated issue.
Chairman of the Coalition of Civil Society Organisations, Charles Mambu, said: “We are in total support of the postponement of the local council elections based on the valid reason put forward by the commission.”
But Executive Director of the Centre for Accountability and Rule of Law, Ibrahim Tommy, questioned the need for the commission to engage CSOs after already reaching a decision to postpone the said elections until 2018.
Tommy opined that NEC would have only highlighted the challenges and sought the opinion of CSOs instead of informing them about their decision to postpone the elections, and asking them to endorse it.
Other CSO leaders questioned a range of issues, including the use of the civil register among others for the conduct of elections across the country.