Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Electoral Commission Holds Destiny of 4.9 Million People

Sierra Leone is at the cross roads and the outcome of the forthcoming elections will determine which path the nation's progress will take. Genuine free and fair elections depend on how the Electoral Commission does things. The destiny of 4.9 million people is therefore in the hands of the chairperson of the National Electoral Commission.

The performance of the National Electoral Commission in the recent registration of voters has been rated to be below the belt.

Registration centres were too few in many areas in the North. The few willing people had to walk several miles to register, which incidentally invoked apathy towards the exercise.

A large percentage of the population, especially in the North of the country, was unable to register. It will adversely affect the outcome of the elections.

Registration officers complained of poor remuneration, faulty cameras, and inadequate logistics. It was expected that NEC should have made adequate preparation before embarking on the voter registration exercise.

We therefore urge NEC to avoid replicating similar problems during the voting period.

It should be ensured that polling stations are not too distant from certain locations. Adequate preparations should be made and the location of voting centres should be adequately done so as not to allow problems to erupt that would adversely affect the outcome. An appreciable outcome of the results would be an indicator of sustainable peace.

NEC has a great role to ensure that it happens.

Also, there is the accusation that most of the presiding officers in the 1996 and 2002 elections were members of the ruling party. And there have been cases in which polling officers forgot their roles and ended performing functions of party agents. The issue of changing ballot boxes and keeping extra ballot papers which many say was a common phenomenon in the past, has also invoked concern nationwide in the country. The head of NEC is therefore urged to ensure that presiding officers for the North are those who hail from the North and those for the South are those who hail from the South. The same applies to other regions. This is to prevent them becoming 'party agents' as has happened in the past elections during which presiding officers were observed to be involved in unethical practices that affected other parties.