Political temperature rises in Sierra Leone

7 August 2012

As the political row continues in Sierra Leone over the unilateral and possibly unconstitutional decision of the country’s National Electoral Commission to raise the nomination fees for the forthcoming November’s elections, the National Election Watch (NEW), has added its voice – denouncing the decision.

The National Election Watch is a coalition of civic and non-governmental organizations, set up to provide independent observation and act as a catalyst in promoting free and fair elections in Sierra Leone.

Speaking at their Bathurst Street office in Freetown this morning, NEW has issued a press statement, saying that the electoral commissioner’s decision to raise the nomination fees has raised political tension and encourages exclusion.

This is what NEW says:

“The new fees that have been announced by NEC for nomination of candidates for councillors and mayors, chairpersons, members of parliament including paramount chief and president of Sierra Leone in a press briefing on 30th July 2012, has raised tension and will encourage exclusion.

“Civil society is concerned about the message that this new fee schedule is sending and the impact on the level playing field is an important part of a peaceful and credible election.

“The fees that NEC has set in place favour the party and individuals that have access to more funding which is probably the incumbent political party.

“The fees that NEC set distort the level playing field that any election should be played on and is a mechanism for exclusion, acting to disenfranchise sectors of the population who do not have access to economic resources including young people, women and persons with disability who want to stand for office, as well as smaller political parties.

“Democracy is a pro-people process that should enhance participation and not promote exclusion and elitism; the more people are able to participate, the better and stronger for our fledgling systems.

“The new fee schedule exacerbates an already divided polity, emphasizing the regional division of a two party state.

“NEC has stated that the fees would bring in 23.5% of the budget for the elections. It talks about decreasing the dependence on donor funds.

“We will like to note that the responsibility for funding elections squarely rest with the Government of Sierra Leone and not NEC and this has been reflected in the 2012 national budget.

“Therefore the commitment of government to the election budget needs to be loud and clear, it needs to be delivered in a timely manner and to the appropriate institution including the security sector.

“Civil society encourages NEC to listen to the public discourse around this proclamation they have made and to think deeply about this action.

“Civil society encourages NEC to consult with various stakeholders about the fee schedule if that is their mandate; to ensure that it does not set in motion a result which NEC has not intended to happen.

“Civil Society wishes to make it abundantly clear to NEC and the Government that the benefits of elections should be felt by all citizens, therefore excluding some part of our society is discriminatory and can lead to apathy.

“Civil society also urges the Sierra Leone parliament to address this particular issue with Bi-partisan consideration to enhance inclusion and participation in a people cantered process.

 

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