Sierra Leone Telegraph: 13 September 2017
Next year’s elections in Sierra Leone are now most likely to be postponed; the National Electoral Commission’s boss may face the sack; and president Ernest Bai Koroma will get more time in office. This is my prediction, based on the sad political reality in Sierra Leone today.
And I equally submit that my prediction will come to pass before the beginning of 2018. Mark my words – this is not fake propaganda. But Before you rush to judge me or dismiss my assertions, let me give you my justification.
The government’s argument that President Koroma was ‘loud and clear’ enough in saying that elections would be held on March 7 2018, is simply a fake propaganda aimed at exonerating the President from any blame that will emanate from the looming elections postponement.
Is this not the same President that was emphatically ‘loud and clear’ enough in saying that there will be a national referendum on constitutional changes, by September 2017? Was the referendum announcement not made alongside the March 7 elections date?
Are we not now in September 2017 with no sign of the referendum that was ‘loudly and clearly’ promised by the President?
What makes the referendum date assurance different from the election date assurance, especially as the two announcements were made on the same day, same speech, same President?
If His Excellency could promise referendum for September and we are already in September with not even a sign of the white paper for the referendum, can we please have some quiet on the propaganda that the President’s March 7 elections date is sacrosanct?
Is this not a pointer enough to conclude that the March 7, 2018 election announcement may have been done under pressure and not out of sincerity?
This is the grand 2018 election postponement plan:
In my view, the plan to hold elections beyond March 2018 started long ago – possibly some two years back – while the opposition, media and civil society were literally sleeping on their wings.
Apart from the presidential ‘more time’ campaign which was initiated and propagated by friends of President Koroma, the more time plan started assuming its proper shape with the late announcement of an election date.
The unnecessary delay in announcing the date for the 2018 election, not only disenfranchised certain politicians from pursuing their ambition, but equally left the National Electoral Commission with a very tight – some would say impossible, elections calendar schedule that makes no room for eventualities.
As the electoral calendar stands today, there is no space to accommodate any mistake or challenge that will emanate from the work of the NEC.
Voter register trap
Let us take for example the voter registration calendar and its accompanying legal provisions. It is by law that the voter register must be ready six months ahead of the election.
With the March 7 elections date, it simply means that the voter register should be signed and sealed and even dusted and ready for elections, latest September 7, 2017 – which is exactly six months into elections.
So, how on earth will this be possible when exhibition of voter registration which comes with objections and clarifications and amendment of data collected from the registration process, only ended some three weeks into the expiration of the conditional deadline for the register to be ready by September 7?
What magic will the NEC use to correct irregularities in the voter register, including missing data within three weeks, so as to meet with the legal provision to complete the voter register six months ahead of elections?
And as if to make the work of the ‘more time’ for President Koroma campaigners easy, the NEC boss confirmed to Parliament on Monday, that the voter register is still being processed with hopes of completing it by November or December 2017.
This means that the voter register will only be ready some three or two months to elections, in total contravention of the legal provision of six months.
With this reality, a March 7, 2018 election with such voter register can only be null and void – unconstitutional. In other words, the NEC boss has confirmed that an election to be held on March 7 with the current controversial data that is still being processed, will be unconstitutional.
It would seem like the ‘more time’ plan includes an electoral calendar that made no room to correct such situations that were bound to arise from the registration process, and the NEC boss has conveniently succumbed to that grand plan.
Rotten voter registration machines
As if to perfect this grand plan, the electoral commission was supplied with registration machines that were evidently faulty or rotten. And to compound the situation, the voter registration was blended with the national citizen identity registration process, for the first time in the history of the world, though I stand to be corrected.
Before we start to argue as to who supplied NEC with the rotten voter registration machines, we should equally ask ourselves as to why the NEC accepted the machines supplied, without insisting that the procurement of electoral machines should be done by NEC itself.
Or better still, NEC should have hired its independent technicians to check and certify the supplied machines before accepting them.
What if the machines were already programmed to reject data as part of the presidential ‘more time’ grand plan, and the NEC raised no public objection that the machines were supplied by government?
Competence of the NEC Boss
That brings us to the question as to the competence of the NEC boss and/or his team, with respect to independently conducting an election.
At least the ruling APC operatives are now using this missing data occurrence to their advantage, even though it would seem such an occurrence was actually orchestrated by the government or the president, by delaying the announcement of the elections date and supplying rigged electoral registration machines to the NEC.
Now that the NEC boss has conveniently landed into what will appear as a government or ruling party or President Koroma bait – hook. line and sinker, the ‘more timers’ are now jubilating over their ‘more time by default success’, though the default in this case appears to have been well orchestrated.
The NEC boss has now found himself in a deep mess that may not only result in his sacking, but which will equally witness a postponement of the 2018 Presidential and Parliamentary elections.
With the aforementioned and more, I will confidently reiterate here that the March 7, 2018 elections would be postponed, President Koroma will get his more time, and the NEC boss may be replaced.
At the expense of democratic progress – I said progress, because I don’t want to mention peace and stability – in Sierra Leone, this is the sad reality. And less than six months to elections the NEC is literally broke, with a major funding gap. In point of fact, the least talked about this the better.
In as much as this is a win for certain politicians in the ruling APC party in particular, and the opposition in general, Sierra Leone is at the losing end – a very big loss for the country and its fledgling democracy. But posterity is the best judge.
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