-NEC’s Albert Massaquoi
August 29, 2016 By Alusine Sesay
Director of Media and External Relations at the National Electoral Commission (NEC) has told Concord Times in an exclusive that although the 1991 Constitution gives NEC the mandate to delineate electoral boundaries, the views of constituents remain paramount in determining final boundaries, thus the just concluded stakeholder engagement on the boundaries delimitation process across the country.
Albert Massaquio said boundaries delimitation is a process and not an event, adding that it would end in December when NEC would have established the final boundaries in constituencies and wards across the country.
Section 38(4) of the 1991 Constitution of Sierra Leone provides that NEC shall review constituency boundaries at intervals of 5 and 7 years. The boundaries delimitation process is divided into 5 stages: Parliament determining the total number of constituencies into which the country should be divided, establishment of methodology and collection of required data or information, demarcation of electoral boundaries, stakeholders and public consultation on the provisional set of electoral boundaries, and approval and final implementation of electoral boundaries.
According to Massaquoi, the commission is now on the fourth stage – engaging stakeholders, including Paramount Chiefs, political parties’ representatives, among others, in all the 14 electoral districts across the country
“The outcome of the stakeholders consultation across the country was positive. We took into consideration individual views that benefit the entire constituencies. Although the constitution gives us the mandate to bring people together, but we look at the sensitivities in the various constituencies,” he told Concord Times.
Massaquoi said that based on the views of people during the stakeholders consultations conducted at district level, the commission has modified the draft boundaries, adding that they would again meet the people at chiefdom level to educate them on the new boundaries before taking it to Parliament for approval and final implementation.
“We have modified the draft boundaries based on the general interest of the people. We have made some inputs and we are going to hold another stakeholder consultation, and this time around at chiefdom levels. We would thereafter validate and send it to Parliament for approval and final implementation,” he said.
He said the boundaries delimitation process took into consideration variables including geographical features and cultural differences, while a variable like population is constant and cannot be changed.
He disclosed that the commission spent hundreds of millions of Leones to undertake the stakeholders consultations across the country and that the process was being funded by the Government of Sierra Leone, with support from development partners, including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP),USAID, IRISAID, German Aid, among several others.
Based on the 2015 Housing and Population Census, which puts the country’s population at seven million, the number of parliamentary seats would increase from 112 to 132, according to NEC.
But the said figure has been disputed by the main opposition Sierra Leone People’s Party, who have said they would not accept the new delimited boundaries because it skewed in favour of the ruling All Peoples Congress.
The 2016 Housing and Population Census result determines the number of parliamentary seats allocated to each of the 14 electoral districts across the country. According to the draft boundaries, parliamentary seats in the Northern Region increased from 39 to 47, the Western Rural and Urban Areas seats increased from 21 to 28, while seats in the Southern Region increased from 25 to 27, and from 27 to 30 seats in the East.
The north-west is currently pro-government, while the south-east is opposition stronghold.