November 1, 2021
By Alhaji Haruna Sani
As part of their support for democracy in Sierra Leone, the European Union (EU) Election Follow-up Mission (EFM), has on Friday 29 October, shared with journalists key findings of their assessment of implementation of 29 election recommendations they made to Government in 2018.
Speaking to newsmen during a press briefing organised by the EU EFM at the New Brookfields Hotel in Freetown, the Honourable Member of the European Parliament and Vice-Chairman of the Development Committee, Norbert Neuser said part of their findings revealed that there has been a significant decrease in trust in the essential bodies which plays integral roles in the forthcoming elections.
Those essential bodies, he said, include the Judiciary, National Electoral Commission (NEC), Political Parties Registration Commission (PPRC) and the Sierra Leone Police (SLP).
He said “Our findings are that these institutions’ reputations are less trusted than needed,” adding that “there are real grounds for concern in the ways these bodies administered recent bye-elections”.
“Our mission is not to observe any bye-election, but to undertake a technical assessment of the state of implementation of the 29 recommendations we made in 2018”, he noted.
The implementation of those recommendations, he said, will enhance the credibility, inclusiveness, and transparency of the 2023 elections.
Hon. Neuser mentioned some of the EU EOM 2018 recommendations included, the reactivation of the constitutional review process, a fixed date for future elections, voter register to be automatically produced from civil register, which would help save time and money improvement of result and reconciliation form, the timely publication of detailed tally procedures and the publications of disaggregated results by pulling station.
He intimated that none of their recommendations around NEC were touched upon during the national validation conference of August 2021, but only focused on electoral legal reforms.
He quoted section 146.4 of the Public Elections Act, which states that if an election is declared void, another election shall be held. But, he said the 2019 High Court decision to declare the runners up elected in 10 constituencies eroded the confidence in the Judiciary.
He charged that the midterm census is unprecedented, as the stated reason for it is highly contested. “The use of an optional census to provide data which might be used to change electoral boundaries shortly before an election is not conducive to the political atmosphere or good electoral practice.
However, the EFM acknowledged government’s achievement over the decriminalization of the criminal libel law of the 1965 Public Order Act.
Another recommendation which they said has been partially implemented is the modification of the appointment procedures for board members of the Independent Media Commission (IMC), who are no longer appointed by the President.
The Mission also welcome a Bill that was formally introduced by Government in Parliament, which they said aim at increasing women’s participation in public and political life.