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‘Let’s Not Prejudge the Elections’

…EU Chief Observer Warns

February 26, 2018 By Hassan Gbassay Koroma

Jean Lambert is the EU Chief Observer for the March 7 polls

Chief Observer of the European Union Elections Observation Mission to Sierra Leone, Jean Lambert, last Friday (February 23) cautioned against prejudging the results of the elections, thus urging political parties to refrain from commenting on unofficial results in a bid to ensure a peaceful ending to the electoral campaign.

“Let’s not prejudge the results of the elections. Political parties should refrain from commenting on what has not yet arrived, and ensure a peaceful ending of the electoral campaign,” urged Ms. Lambert.

Ms. Lambert, who is a Member of the European Parliament from the United Kingdom, made the call during an interactive session with journalists at Radison Blu Mammy Yoko Hotel, Aberdeen, in Freetown.

She highlighted the work they will be doing in country before, during and after the forthcoming presidential and general elections slated for March 7.

She told pressmen she had met with many stakeholders in the electoral process in order to produce a comprehensive and neutral assessment, adding that she was pleased that the meetings were held in a spirit of transparency.

She noted that the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has implemented some of the recommendations EU observers made in 2012 by publishing the electoral calendar well before the upcoming elections, expressing hope that NEC would strengthen transparency of its work, in particular its communication and public outreach.

She said that they have positively noticed that the commission has been regularly engaging political parties, civil society organisations and security stakeholders, plus the fact that the electoral body now operates a twitter account.

The EU Chief Observer, however, noted that NEC could do better in reaching all citizens, notably by updating its website.

“Transparency is essential during the entire electoral process. That’s why we are going to monitor closely the results management process. Today (Friday), our analyst will attend the presentation of the tallying procedure. People need to know in advance how this key part of the electoral process will be handled,” she said.

“Our team also follows closely the work of the Judiciary and will do so well beyond Election Day because we are here to observe the entire electoral process, before, during and after Election Day. Lately, the Judiciary has had to deal with sensitive cases related to some candidates and their nominations. We hope that the magistrates will make swift and independent decisions,” she said.

She commended the Presidential Debate of 15th February, broadcast nationwide, as a positive development in bringing presidential candidates closer to the electorate, adding that they observed that the atmosphere was good.

She averred that the Presidential Debate was used as a platform to exchange ideas and talk about policies rather than one focused on personalities, and that it was a refreshing moment for democracy that citizens must have appreciated.

It could be recalled that on January 25th a team of nine election experts from six EU member states arrived in Freetown to set up and coordinate the mission. The core team analyses political, electoral and legal issues, media coverage, with support from logistical and security experts.

According to a factsheet issued to journalists, the mission has 28 long-term observers from 25 EU member states and Norway, who will work in every district across Sierra Leone, observe the electoral process in their respective areas and report back to the core team in Freetown.

About 40 short-term observers would join the mission shortly before the elections.

The factsheet further states that on Election Day, the Mission would observe voting and counting in polling stations throughout the country, while the mission would also be joined by a delegation of members from the European Parliament.

In total, the EU would deploy around 100 election observers in Sierra Leone ahead of the crucial elections, with a mandate to observe all aspects of the electoral process and assess the extent to which the election complies with Sierra Leone National Law as well as international and regional standards for elections.

The EU EOM will observe the entire election process including the legal framework and its implementation, the work of elections administration, campaign activities, the role of state institutions and civil society, conduct of the media, voting, counting and tabulation and environment in which the elections are conducted.

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